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Discussions about Iran’s nuclear program have been extended by four months

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Iran and six world powers have agreed to extend discussions about Tehran’s nuclear program until the 25th of November. The six countries had hoped to secure a deal that would prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon and ease economic sanctions that have hobbled the oil-rich Islamic republic. However, as the Sunday deadline loomed, negotiators announced that they were unable to complete the deal now.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who flew into Vienna a week ago to try and advance the talks, released a statement on Friday, saying, “it is clear to me that we have made tangible progress in our comprehensive negotiations, but there are very real gaps in some areas… diplomacy takes time, and persistence is needed to determine whether we can achieve our objectives peacefully.”

Iran’s nuclear program will remain halted during the next four months, Kerry said, and “in return, we will continue to suspend the sanctions we agreed to under the JPOA and will allow Iran access to $2.8 billion dollars of its restricted assets.” The decision had been expected, with much of Friday spent on debating not obstacles standing in the way of an agreement but how long the add-on talks should go on and other related details.

Both sides of the discussions claim that they seek a comprehensive deal that would end the decade-long standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. “We are committed to testing whether we can address one of the world’s most pressing priorities — ensuring that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon,” Secretary of State John F. Kerry said in a statement issued in Washington. “This effort remains as intense as it is important, and we have come a long way in a short period of time.”

The prospects of a deal have reportedly improved since the current round of talks began earlier this month, but a picture of sticking points is emerging that the parties say requires further consultations, especially in Tehran and Washington. The issue of how much of Iran’s current program it would retain has been a particularly troublesome issue. The United States and its European allies want to ensure that Iran is not left with the ability to quickly divert its program for the production of nuclear weapons, whereas Iran has set the preservation of a “robust” uranium enrichment capability as a precondition of any agreement.

Iran claims its program is peaceful and chiefly aimed at easing future demands for electrical power. The United States and many allies claim the program, begun in secret, was intended to allow Iran to make a weapon when and if it chose as a hedge to what the Islamic republic has long seen as Western desires to overthrow its leadership. Read more about the story here.

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