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Nov 21, 2014 12:18 PM

Kerry still at nuke talks despite planning to go

The Associated Press

VIENNA (AP) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced he was pulling back on Friday from talks on Iran's nuclear program in Vienna, but then scheduled an evening meeting with his Iranian counterpart, suggesting some hope of movement with less than four days to deadline.

The official Iranian news agency IRNA said Kerry had made new proposals to the Iranians meant to bridge differences standing in the way of a deal.

A U.S. statement earlier in the day said Kerry was heading for Paris and his "future travel schedule is still being finalized, and we have not yet determined when he will return to Vienna." That suggested that he was waiting to see whether there was enough momentum to warrant his rejoining the talks.

But he was still in Vienna, as the day turned into evening Friday. A new U.S. statement said he had scheduled another meeting "tonight" with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and former EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Iranian officials and media initially said Zarif was also departing Friday, heading to Tehran to consult after meeting with Kerry earlier in the day. But the official IRNA news agency later quoted an unidentified Iranian nuclear negotiator in Vienna as saying Zarif was staying "and the talks will continue."

The negotiator was quoted as saying that ideas proposed by the Americans were not yet ripe enough to warrant Zarif's trip. It was unclear whether he planned to fly to Tehran in the coming days, before Monday's deadline for a deal.

The U.S. statement said Kerry would be consulting with European counterparts while in Paris. Diplomats said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond left the Vienna talks in the afternoon after arriving earlier in the day.

Hammond held out hope for an agreement by Monday before meeting with Kerry and Fabius. At the same time, he told reporters that "we have a long way to go if we are to get to a deal before the deadline."

Expectations are growing that the Monday deadline for a full deal will be missed because of differences on how much Iran needs to reduce the size and scope of key nuclear programs. Both the Iranians and the six world powers negotiating with them must soon decide whether to go beyond Monday or adjourn to a later date. They may also opt to end negotiations, but that is unlikely.

Officials from the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany are seeking to reduce the potency of Iran's nuclear program and slow its technical ability to produce atomic weapons. Iran denies seeking such arms, but is negotiating in pursuit of relief from international sanctions.


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