Time runs out for biggest chance to resolve Iran nuclear standoff
Time runs out Monday for the biggest chance in years to resolve the Iranian nuclear standoff, as Tehran and world powers make a final push for a deal but with a risky extension looking likely.
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (the P5+1) have been locked in talks with Iran for months, seeking to turn an interim deal that expires at midnight (2300 GMT) on Monday into a lasting accord.
Such an agreement, after a 12-year standoff, is aimed at easing fears that Tehran will develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian activities, an ambition it hotly denies.
But a last-ditch diplomatic blitz in recent days involving US Secretary of State John Kerry and other foreign ministers to secure a deal appears to have failed to bridge the remaining major differences.
As a result, late Sunday a senior US State Department official said for the first time that the powers and Iran were now discussing putting more time on the clock.
The official said it was "only natural that just over 24 hours from the deadline we are discussing a range of options ... An extension is one of those options."
This came after US Secretary of State John Kerry met his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif for the sixth time since Thursday in an attempt to break the deadlock.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said however that the parties would still make a "big push tomorrow (Monday) morning to try and get this across the line".
"Of course if we're not able to do it, we'll then look at where we go from there," he said.
"We're still quite a long way apart and there are some very tough and complex issues to deal with".
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was expected in the Austrian capital early Monday, completing the line-up of all the six powers' foreign ministers.
This included Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a key player in the talks. Earlier in the week he said all the elements were in place for a deal with just "political will" missing.