VIENNA – US President Barack Obama wants more time for American diplomats to talk with Iran over its nuclear ambitions, beyond an international deadline set for July 20.
After a briefing on the matter from US Secretary of State John Kerry, who just returned from a series of unprecedented meetings with his Iranian counterpart, Obama said on Wednesday night that a “credible path forward” existed that would require an extension of the diplomatic effort.
“It’s clear to me that we have made real progress in several areas and that we have a credible way forward,” Obama said in a short statement to journalists from the White House. “But as we approach a deadline of July 20 under the interim deal, there are still some significant gaps between the international community and Iran, and we have more work to do.”
An interim deal reached last autumn among world powers, which temporarily froze the nuclear crisis, allows for extension of up to six months should all parties at the table agree. Obama said that throughout the first six months of talks, Iran had met its commitments under the deal, which included capping uranium enrichment, freezing its construction of a plutonium reactor facility and destroying its most highly enriched stockpiled material.
“Over the next few days, we’ll continue consulting with Congress – and our team will continue discussions with Iran and our partners – as we determine whether additional time is necessary to extend our negotiations,” Obama said.
Over the weekend, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told The New York Times in an interview that Iran sought to make much of the interim deal permanent. The terms have been rejected by the United States.