VIENNA — US Secretary of State John Kerry was due on Monday to hold a second day of talks with Iran seeking to overcome major differences blocking what would be a momentous nuclear deal.
With just six days until a deadline to strike an accord, the differences appear considerable, however, with Kerry and other Western ministers failing on Sunday to achieve a breakthrough.
Such an accord is aimed at ending once and for all worries that Iran might develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian programme, and silence talk of war.
Iran denies seeking the bomb and wants the lifting of all UN and Western sanctions, which have caused it major economic problems.
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany have been negotiating almost constantly for months, but the talks have come up against major problems – as expected.
Kerry and the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany arrived on Sunday in Vienna seeking to press Iran to make key concessions.
The three European ministers however left late in the day saying no breakthrough had been made, although Kerry remained for likely further discussions with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday.
Russia and China sent only lower-ranking officials, with Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Li Baodong urging both sides "to show flexibility".
Kerry said on arrival that "very significant gaps" remained, while Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi said that on all the important issues, no narrowing of positions was evident.
Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who like the others held one-on-one talks with Zarif, was the most downbeat, warning that "the ball is in Iran's court".
"It is now up to Iran to decide to take the path of co-operation. I hope that the days left will be enough to create some reflection in Tehran," he said.
Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague said that no "decisive breakthrough" was achieved and that there remained a "huge gap" on the key issue of uranium enrichment. — AFP