Vienna: Britain and Germany`s foreign ministers will join US Secretary of State John Kerry in Vienna this weekend to seek to bridge what Washington called "significant gaps" in ongoing nuclear talks with Iran, London and Berlin said on Friday.
The negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, which last week entered the final straight, are aimed at forging a lasting deal with Iran meant to ease fears that the Islamic state might develop nuclear weapons.
The deadline to get a deal is July 20, when an interim deal struck by foreign ministers in Geneva last November expires, although this can be extended if both sides agree.
Kerry "will gauge the extent of Iran`s willingness to commit to credible and verifiable steps that would back up its public statements about the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme," spokeswoman Marie Harf said in an emailed statement late Thursday.
He "will see if progress can be made on the issues where significant gaps remain and assess Iran`s willingness to make a set of critical choices at the negotiating table" and then "make recommendations" to President Barack Obama on the next steps.
Kerry will also hold talks in Vienna with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Harf said.
London today confirmed British Foreign Secretary William Hague`s attendance, as did Germany for Frank-Walter Steinmeier. In Paris a diplomatic source told AFP that Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius would also be there.
However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will not be present, with Moscow represented by Vladimir Voronkov, Russia`s ambassador to international organisations in the Austrian capital, ITAR-TASS cited Voronkov as saying.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said he had "no specific information about which Chinese official will go, but we will send an official of some level to the meeting".
Yesterday, the lead negotiator, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, invited all foreign ministers from the six powers to Vienna to "take stock of where we are", her spokesman said.
The negotiations have, as expected, proved tough going.
France has described them as "difficult" and on Tuesday said no major issues had been resolved, although Russia said Thursday there were "clear signs of progress".
The main sticking point is uranium enrichment, a process which can produce nuclear fuel -- Iran`s stated aim -- but also in highly purified form the core of an atomic weapon.