Vienna: Iran signalled on Sunday it is open to having nuclear talks with world powers extended by up to a year if no real progress toward a deal is achieved later on Sunday, the eve of a deadline.
Foreign ministers holding marathon negotiations in the Austrian capital Vienna have been deadlocked in their efforts to secure a high-stakes nuclear agreement by tomorrow.
"We're working hard," US Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday in Vienna, "and we hope we're making careful progress, but we have big gaps, we still have some serious gaps, which we're working to close."
Kerry, who on Friday postponed a trip to Paris to remain in Vienna for the talks, met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif yesterday afternoon, their fourth meeting in three days.
Another meeting was expected today.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, also in the Austrian capital, called this final weekend of talks, after months of negotiations, a "moment of truth".
At stake is a historic deal in which Iran would curb its disputed nuclear activities in exchange for broad relief from years of heavy international economic sanctions.
It could end a 12-year standoff that has even raised the prospect of Israeli military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities. Kerry spoke to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone yesterday.
An Iranian source told AFP today that Iran is open to having the nuclear negotiations extended by six months or a year if no real progress toward an agreement is achieved later today.
Such an extension would be under the terms of the Geneva accord that traded a temporary freeze on some aspects of Iran's nuclear activities for limited sanctions relief, the source said.
"We are still focused on agreeing to a kind of political agreement" which would not be written but which would allow for negotiators to fine-tune technical aspects of the agreement later, the source said.
"But if between now and this afternoon or this evening we don't get there, the solution is we consider an extension of the Geneva accord," he said.
"That could be for a period of six months or a year. We must absolutely avoid a climate of confrontation with escalation from one side and the other," the source said.
The United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany have been locked in talks with Iran since February to turn the interim Geneva accord reached a year ago into a lasting agreement by November 24.