The United States and its western allies favor extending talks with Iran on a nuclear deal after expressing doubt about an accord by the Monday night deadline.
US officials said a comprehensive deal now is “virtually impossible” but preserving improved relations with Tehran is preferable to a breakdown in more than a year of direct talks and a potential escalation of tensions in an already fractious Middle East, according to the Wall Street Journal.
However, any extension of the talks faces stiff resistance from US lawmakers.
They question what the White House can achieve in a few additional months of talks.
US Secretary of State John Kerry backed the idea of an extension even without a core political document that would lay out key terms of the accord, something that could have indicated a final agreement was near.
“Our focus remains on taking steps forward toward an agreement. But it is only natural that just over 24 hours from the deadline, we are discussing a range of options… An extension is one of those options,” a senior US official.
The aim of the comprehensive agreement is to constrain Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for an easing of western sanctions.
American officials have said in recent weeks that they believe Tehran could quickly ramp up its production of nuclear fuel, and potentially sabotage US efforts to combat Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, if the negotiating process ends.
The US and its negotiating partners entered into an interim agreement with Iran last year that suspended parts of its nuclear program in return for an easing of some sanctions.
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