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Iran nuke talks conclude as deadline extended 4 months

VIENNA -- Marathon talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna ended Saturday after negotiators gave themselves four more months to try and bridge major gaps and strike a historic nuclear deal.

New rounds of talks were expected in the coming weeks, with the date and place yet to be decided, diplomats said.

“While we have made tangible progress on some of the issues and have worked together on a text (for a deal) ... there are still significant gaps on some core issues,” lead negotiator and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told journalists in the early hours of Saturday.

The talks will now continue until Nov. 24, she added.

Under the terms of the extension, the united States said it would unblock some US$2.8 billion (2.1 billion euros) in frozen funds, in return for Iran converting a quarter of its 20-percent enriched uranium stocks — which can be used to make a bomb — into fuel.

American officials spoke of resuming talks, perhaps at expert level, in August, with the U.N. general assembly in September also expected to provide a stage for the next phase of negotiations.

In a statement repeated in Farsi by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Ashton said the parties would “reconvene in the coming weeks ... with the clear determination to reach agreement ... at the earliest possible moment.”

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