posted at 19:50
Author Name: Nicolas Revise and Simon Sturdee
Time runs out for Iran nuclear talks
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany have been locked in talks with Iran for months, seeking to turn an interim deal that expires at midnight on Monday into a lasting accord. A last-ditch diplomatic blitz in recent days involving US Secretary of State John Kerry and other foreign ministers to secure a deal appears to have failed to bridge the remaining major differences. As a result, late Sunday a senior US State Department official said for the first time that the powers and Iran were now discussing putting more time on the clock. Iran wants painful UN and Western sanctions that have strangled its vital oil exports lifted, but the powers want to stagger any relief over a long period of time to ensure Iranian compliance with any deal. "What a deal would do is take a big piece of business off the table and perhaps begin a long process in which the relationship not just between Iran and us but the relationship between Iran and the world, and the region, begins to change," US President Barack Obama in an ABC News interview aired Sunday. An Iranian source told AFP earlier Sunday, while stressing at that point that adding time was not yet on the table, that the extension "Could be for a period of six months or a year." Another extension - as happened with an earlier deadline of July 20 - however carries risks of its own,including possible fresh US sanctions that could lead Iran to walk away. Pushing back the cut-off point will also fuel accusations from Israel, the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state, that its arch foe Iran is merely buying time to get closer to the bomb.

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