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Kerry holds trilateral nuclear talks with E.U., Iran leaders as deadline nears

Iranian Foreign Minister and chief nuclear negotiator Javad Zarif has said this round of negotiations would be the "last phase" of nuclear talks.

By JC Finley
Kerry holds trilateral nuclear talks with E.U., Iran leaders as deadline nears
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (r), European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (c) and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (l) meet on Nov. 21, 2014, in Vienna, Austria during the final round of nuclear negotiations before the Nov. 24 deadline. (UPI/U.S. Mission to NATO)

VIENNA, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton held a trilateral meeting in Vienna Friday with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif during the last round of negotiations before the Nov. 24 deadline to reach a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.

The officials were expected to discuss steps that have been taken to resolve differences of opinion concerning Iran's uranium enrichment, the process of lifting sanctions imposed on Iran and the weekend's meeting schedule.

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Delegates of the the P5+1 -- the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States) plus Germany -- and Iran have engaged in year-long negotiations. With the deadline fast approaching, all parties have been urged not to divulge specifics of the negotiations.

"And now more than ever we believe that it's critical that we not negotiate in public and that the ideas discussed among the negotiations remain among the negotiators so that misunderstandings are prevented and the integrity of the discussion is preserved," Kerry said Thursday.

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U.S. officials have also underscored that a deadline extension is not under consideration. Iran's lead negotiator echoed that sentiment earlier this month, noting that this round would be the "last phase" of nuclear talks.

Kerry is expected to meet with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius later Friday. Zarif will also hold a meeting with Fabius and Hammond Friday afternoon.

Fabius told reporters after arriving in Vienna on Friday "I will hold talks with my Iranian counterpart and I hope that Iran would not miss the chance."

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Iran's state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported that Zarif may return to Tehran Friday night for consultations with senior Iranian officials concerning unspecified issues related to the negotiations.

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