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Nuclear talks require ‘some more work,’ says Zarif

Iranian negotiator rejects reports that deal can be signed Sunday, but says no extension; Rouhani announces ‘settlement of nuclear issue’ is ‘very close’

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (right), talks to a journalist from a balcony of the Palais Coburg Hotel in Vienna, Austria, on July 10, 2015. (Carlos Barria/Pool via AP)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (right), talks to a journalist from a balcony of the Palais Coburg Hotel in Vienna, Austria, on July 10, 2015. (Carlos Barria/Pool via AP)

The marathon nuclear talks underway in Vienna still require “some more work,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Sunday evening, rejecting reports that the sides could wrap it up before Monday.

Speaking from a balcony outside a Vienna hotel where negotiators were holding marathon sessions, Zarif said the talks would not be extended beyond the expected Monday deadline.

After meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Zarif said nuclear negotiators “still got work tomorrow” after more than two weeks of intensive talks, the official Iranian news outlet PressTV reported.

“No extension, we will finish hopefully. We need some more time. We need to do some more work,” Zarif said.

Sunday evening’s negotiations included a meeting between Iran’s deputy foreign ministers at the talks, Abbas Araqchi and Majid Takht-e Ravanchi, and US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and National Security Council official Robert Malley, the site reported.

The comments from Zarif echoed an earlier statement from Western diplomats that the sides would likely sign the deal Monday, but still had issues to overcome.

In Tehran, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday the sides were “very close.

“We have come a long way. We need to reach a peak and we’re very close,” he said at an iftar meal breaking the Ramadan dawn-to-dusk fast in Tehran.

Tortuous talks in Vienna towards a nuclear deal entered what French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he believed was the “final phase,” but with Tehran warning that “political will” was still needed.

“We are so close that, if you look down from below, you feel as if we have got there, but when you do get there you know there are still some steps to take,” the ISNA news agency quoted Rouhani as saying.

“Thank God, I have kept my campaign promises for a settlement of the nuclear issue,” he added.

Before his election as president in June 2013, Rouhani vowed to reach an agreement with the P5+1 group — the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

For 16 days, negotiators have been meeting in the Austrian capital to try to agree on a deal that would curb Iran’s nuclear activities and make it extremely difficult for Tehran — which denies any such aim — to develop the atomic bomb.

In return, Iran will be granted staggered relief from sanctions, although the six powers are insisting they retain the option to reimpose the measures if Tehran violates the deal.

The negotiations had originally been due to end on June 30, but the latest effective deadline for an accord is now Monday.

Negotiators at the Iran nuclear talks plan to announce Monday that they’ve reached a deal, two diplomats told The Associated Press on Sunday.

The envoys had said a provisional agreement may be reached even earlier — by late Sunday. But they cautioned that final details of the pact were still being worked out. Once it is complete, a formal, final agreement would be open to review by officials in the capitals of Iran and the six world powers at the talks, they said.

Senior US and Iranian officials suggested, however, that the drafting of documents could bleed into Monday.

All of the officials who are at the talks in Vienna demanded anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the negotiations publicly.

“We are working hard, but a deal tonight is simply logistically impossible,” the Iranian official said, noting that the agreement will run roughly 100 pages.

The senior US official declined to speculate as to the timing of any agreement or announcement, but said “major issues remain to be resolved.”

Despite the caution, the negotiators appeared to be on the cusp of an agreement.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who on Thursday had threatened to walk away from the negotiations, said Sunday that “a few tough things” remain in the way, but added that “we’re getting to some real decisions.”

En route to Mass at Vienna’s gothic St. Stephens Cathedral, Kerry said twice he was “hopeful” after a “very good meeting” Saturday with Zarif, who attended Muslim services Friday. The two met again early Saturday evening.

Also Sunday, an Iranian source told the semi-official Fars News Agency that the Iranian parliament would have to approve a final deal, but stressed negotiators had “sufficient authority” to accept an agreement with world powers.

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