Nov 21, 2014 7:51 AM
Kerry, Zarif leave nuclear talks, returns unclear
The Associated Press
VIENNA (AP) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran's foreign minister decided Friday to pull back from nuclear talks in Vienna, leaving the future of the negotiations unclear less than four days before the deadline for a deal.
Members of the Iranian delegation to the talks said Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was flying to Tehran for consultations. U.S. officials said Kerry was heading for Paris.
A U.S. statement said Kerry's "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 Zarif is returning and bringing new proposals before deciding to rejoin the talks.
The statement said Kerry will be consulting with "European counterparts" while in Paris. Diplomats said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond were also leaving the Vienna talks 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.