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Nuclear talks 'could be extended'

Nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers could be extended past tonight's deadline for the outline of an agreement if enough progress is made to justify it, a senior US official said.

The statement suggested that talks - meant to produce an outline that would allow the sides to continue negotiations until the June 30 final deadline - had not bridged all gaps.

But it seems the sides are working to produce a text with few specifics, accompanied by documents outlining areas where further talks are needed.

Experts and diplomats are working around the clock, the official said, and will keep at it "if we are continuing to make progress, including into tomorrow, it it's useful to do so".

Officials earlier said that they hoped to wrap up six days of marathon talks with a statement agreeing to continue negotiations in a new phase to control Iran's nuclear ambitions.

They had set a deadline of today for a framework agreement, and later softened that wording to a framework understanding, between Iran and the so-called P5+1 nations - the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

After intense negotiations, obstacles remained on uranium enrichment, where stockpiles of enriched uranium should be stored, limits on Iran's nuclear research and development and the timing and scope of sanctions relief among other issues.

A joint statement and additional documents that outline more detailed understandings would allow the sides to claim enough progress has been made to merit a new round of talks, officials said.

Iran has not yet signed off on the documents, one official said, meaning any understanding remains unclear.

The talks have already been extended twice as part of more than a decade of diplomatic attempts to curb Tehran's nuclear advance.

If the parties agree only to a broad framework that leaves key details unresolved, President Barack Obama could face stiff opposition from members of Congress who want to move forward with new Iran sanctions legislation.

Mr Obama has warned that passing new sanctions during the talks could upend the sensitive discussions.

The softening of the language from a framework "agreement" to a framework "understanding" appeared due in part to opposition to a two-stage agreement from Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Earlier this year, he demanded only one deal that nails down specifics and does not permit the other side to "make things difficult" by giving it wiggle room on interpretations.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said : "Prospects for this round of negotiations were not bad, and I would even say good."


From Belfast Telegraph