Time ‘to seize the moment’ for nuke deal: Iran FM

Six world powers and Iran met again on Wednesday after failing to agree crucial details by a midnight deadline

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged global powers Wednesday to “seize” the moment to reach what could be a historic deal to cut back Iran’s nuclear program,

“Iran has shown its readiness to engage with dignity and it’s time for our negotiating partners to seize the moment and use this opportunity which may not be repeated,” Zarif said, after meeting alone with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

He was speaking as exhausting marathon talks went into the evening on the seventh day of negotiations in a luxury lakeside hotel in the Swiss city of Lausanne.

Meanwhile, Kerry will stay in negotiations with Iran and his counterparts until at least Thursday morning, as they seek to reach a deal on the Iranian nuclear program, a State Department spokeswoman said Wednesday.

“We continue to make progress, but have not reached a political understanding. Therefore, Secretary Kerry will remain in Lausanne until at least Thursday morning to continue the negotiations,” State Department acting spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

The U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany want Iran to scale down its nuclear program to extend the “breakout” time needed for the Islamic republic to assemble enough nuclear material to make a bomb.

The White House said on Wednesday that progress was being made in the nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers, as international negotiations for a political framework for such an agreement continue past its Tuesday deadline.

However, it added that it has not received tangible, specific commitments from the Islamic Republic over its nuclear capabilities.

"The sense that we have is that, yes, the talks continue to be productive and that progress is being made," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

He also said the United States is prepared to walk away from the negotiations if necessary.

Six world powers and Iran met again on today in a bid to reach a preliminary accord on reining in Tehran’s nuclear program, after failing to agree crucial details such as the lifting of U.N. sanctions by a midnight deadline.

The negotiators ended talks in the Swiss city of Lausanne in the early morning hours. But as top negotiators from the powers met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Russia and Iran expressed optimism that an initial agreement was within reach.

It was not clear how long the negotiations would continue.

The six powers - the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China - aim to stop Iran from gaining the capacity to develop a nuclear bomb in exchange for easing international sanctions that are crippling its economy.

Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.

A preliminary deal would be a major milestone toward a final accord, with an end-June deadline, that could end a 12-year standoff and reduce the risk of another Middle East war.

With Iran asserting its “nuclear rights” and the United States threatening on Tuesday to abandon the negotiations if the current talks yield no political framework accord, the talks have been bogged down on the issues of nuclear centrifuge research, the lifting of U.N. sanctions and their restoration if Iran breaches the agreement.

An agreement would almost certainly lift sanctions only in stages, deferring even a partial return of Iranian crude exports until at least 2016. Sanctions have halved Iran’s oil exports to just over 1 million barrels per day since 2012 when oil and financial sanctions hit Iran. Brent crude edged lower towards $55 a barrel on Wednesday.

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