VIENNA, Nov. 25 (UPI) -- The deadline of a yearlong attempt to negotiate a nuclear disarmament deal with Iran resulted in a seven-month extension of talks and optimism an agreement can be reached.
The extension calls for a political agreement by March 1, 2015, and confirmation of all technical details by July 1. Although frustrated, negotiators on each side walked away from the bargaining table attempting to show confidence an agreement was forthcoming. It was clear, though, the round of negotiations, which could be regarded as U.S. President Barack Obama's highest priority of foreign policy, ended on a disappointing note.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said "new ideas surfaced" in the final hours before a self-imposed deadline Monday, and noted a temporary program curbing Iran's nuclear program will be maintained. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said a deal was near, and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javat Zarif, Kerry's counterpart in the Vienna negotiations, added "We don't need seven months" to finalize a deal.
Rouhani, speaking Monday in Tehran, said the gap between negotiators had narrowed in the final hours of the discussions, telling state television in an interview, "It is true that we could not reach an agreement but we can still say that big steps have been taken."
Kerry, in Vienna, was more restrained in his comments, telling reporters in Vienna that although "substantial progress" was made, there remain some significant points of disagreement. These talks are not going to get easier just because we extend them. They're tough. They've been tough, and they're going to stay tough."
The United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, France and Germany have collectively sought a curb on Iran's nuclear ambitions and to finalize a preliminary agreement achieved last year. Iran, which claims its nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes, seeks permanent relief from economic sanctions.
The extension means Iran will continue its temporary relief from sanctions, which has cost it $700 million per month in frozen assets abroad. A threat of new sanctions from the Republican U.S. Senate in the new year has already been proposed.