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West and Iran nuclear negotiations struggle for common ground in Vienna as deadline creeps

The deadline for an agreement is just one day away, and officials from Iran and the West are still deadlocked in negotiations involving Iran's nuclear program.

By Fred Lambert
West and Iran nuclear negotiations struggle for common ground in Vienna as deadline creeps
Secretary of State John Kerry testifies during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on President Obama’s FY 2015 foreign affairs budget request, March 13, 2014 in Washington, D.C. UPI/Kevin Dietsch. | License Photo

VIENNA, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- Iranian and Western diplomats in Vienna struggled to come to common terms about the future of Iran's nuclear program and related sanctions Sunday, just one day before the deadline for an agreement.

Since Thursday U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been in the Austrian capital meeting with key players in the talks, including Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif and representatives from Germany, France and Britain. Reports indicate that Russia and China -- two additions that would complete P5+1, the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany -- might also join the talks on Sunday.

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Western powers have disputed Iran's nuclear capability for over a decade, and the Vienna talks were meant to bring months of negotiations to a head. The hope has been to lift economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for a reduction of its nuclear-enrichment capability, but there has been disagreement about how soon and how much of the sanctions could be lifted or the level of reduction Iran would commit to. The West has accused Iran of attempting to develop warheads, but Tehran denies this and claims its program has civilian purposes.

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On Sunday Kerry met with officials from the European Union, France, Britain, Germany and Saudi Arabia -- a Sunni kingdom which represents the rival counterweight in the region to Shia Iran.

The deadline for negotiations, which has been extended once already, ends Monday, but rumors have swirled about another possible extension.

The common assumption has been that no agreement will be met within the allotted time. Last week a U.S. official expressed doubt about meeting the Nov. 24 deadline, citing how difficult the negotiations have been.

The official said that an agreement was "difficult, but possible," and that "extension is not and has not been a subject of negotiations at this point."

The Islamic Republic News Agency reported Sunday that Iran had not changed its principled stand, but that "the possibility of signing a comprehensive agreement is gaining momentum."

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