Iranian president backs extension of nuclear talks

Associated PressJuly 17, 2014 

Austria Iran Nuclear Talks

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks to the media after closed-door nuclear talks on Iran take place in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday, July 15, 2014. Secretary of State John Kerry says he's headed back to Washington today for consultations about extending the nuclear talks between Iran and world powers. Kerry says there's some progress in the talks but also "very real gaps" that will require a lot of work to overcome.

RONALD ZAK — AP Photo

— Iran's president on Thursday backed an extension of his country's nuclear negotiations with world powers underway in Vienna, saying it would be in the "interest of all" if the talks went on past their planned July 20 deadline.

The talks aim at a deal that curbs Iran's atomic program in exchange for an end to the nuclear-related sanctions on the Islamic Republic. Negotiators have been holed up for weeks working on a plan to prevent Iran from building an atomic weapon but still letting it develop a peaceful nuclear energy program.

Facing stubborn disputes on the terms of a deal and with differences unlikely to be bridged by Sunday's deadline, both Iran and the six world powers — the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany — could approve an extension. The talks could adjourn for two days before the informal deadline.

Rouhani said Iran wants the talks to be extended.

"What we seek in the talks is a win-win situation that would be in the interest of all," Rouhani said, according to the official IRNA news agency.

President Barack Obama said Wednesday that progress has been made in several areas in the negotiations but that there are "still significant gaps" and more work to do to reach a deal to get Iran to curb its nuclear program.

Obama said he will consult with Congress and allies to determine whether negotiations need to be extended after the July 20 deadline.

The main dispute in the talks now is over uranium enrichment, which can make both reactor fuel and the fissile core of nuclear warheads, and the number of centrifuges Tehran would be allowed to keep under the deal.

Iran has shown flexibility but "will not withdraw an iota" from its rights to peaceful nuclear enrichment, said Rouhani.

Rouhani, a relatively moderate leader, was elected last year on a promise to bolster Iran's crumbling economy, in part by securing relief from bruising Western trade sanctions that punish Tehran for its nuclear ambitions.

Associated Press Writer George Jahn in Vienna contributed to this report.

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