US Secretary of State John Kerry addresses a news conference after a meeting in Vienna November 24, 2014. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON -- Negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program will be extended for seven months, with world powers seeking a political framework agreement within four, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Monday from the talks in Vienna.
Praising the Iranians for "working hard" in "good faith, with seriousness and purpose," Kerry said that progress had been made in recent days "on some of the most vexing challenges" facing the parties.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani concurred, stating that, in the course of negotiations, "many gaps were narrowed and our positions with the other side got closer."
Foreign ministers from world powers at the table– the US, United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany– all flew to Vienna in the leadup to a deadline on the talks, which came and went Monday unmet.
"We would be fools to walk away from a situation where the break-out times have been expanded," Kerry said, charging that it makes "absolute sense to continue to talk."
An interim agreement reached a year ago, and first implemented last January, has successfully frozen Iran's vast nuclear program, Kerry asserted. World powers suspect the program has military dimensions.
Referencing those who support alternative paths to halt Iran's program– primarily, the use of military force– Kerry said that diplomacy has made the world safer, and that efforts over the past year have earned negotiators the "benefit of the doubt" over those "who say we should rush ahead down a different course."
US President Barack Obama believes the best, most "effective" path forward is the current diplomatic path, Kerry said.
"We really want this to work," he said, adding that a deal would make Israel and America's allies in the Gulf region "safer."
"We want to reach a comprehensive deal," he continued, "and we want it to work for everybody."
Skeptical Republican members of Congress have suggested revisiting sanctions legislation against Iran, in the hopes that new restrictions will pressure Iran into concessions.
But the Obama administration has rejected previous efforts to trigger sanctions against Iran during the talks. Obama threatened to veto the latest suggested bill, penned by a Democrat, in his last State of the Union address.
At his press conference in Vienna, Kerry said he hoped Congress "will come to see the wisdom of leaving us the equilibrium of a few months."
New legislation could be "misinterpreted" by Iran, he warned, and lead to "miscalculation."
The interim Joint Plan of Action promises a hold on all new sanctions legislation from the United States, but does not clarify whether passage through Congress, or a presidential signature, constitutes a violation.
Negotiations will now continue at a lower political and technical level, toward a new deadline for a comprehensive deal by July 2015.