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US, Iran hold 'substantive' talks on nuclear deal

Update: January, 15/2015 - 11:00

GENEVA – Iran and the US have held more than six hours of talks seeking to nail down a complex nuclear deal, but negotiators remained tight-lipped on what progress had been made as the clock ticks down to a third deadline.

Iranian officials on Wednesday announced that the case of an American-Iranian journalist detained in Iran since July had been transferred to the country's revolutionary court.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has repeatedly called for Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian to be freed, met with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif throughout the day in Geneva, breaking off at times to consult with their teams, who will continue bilateral talks on Thursday.

In a surprise move, US officials announced the talks had ended, only for Kerry to return to Zarif's hotel for another hour-long session deep into the night.

The two sides are seeking to break a stalemate which has seen two earlier deadlines pass without an accord.

Now negotiators have given themselves until the end of June to reach a comprehensive agreement which would prevent the Islamic Republic from developing a nuclear bomb in return for an easing of iron-clad global sanctions.

"They had substantive meetings... and they discussed a broad range of issues with a small group of staff from each side," a senior State Department official said.

Before the talks Zarif told reporters he felt the talks were "important".

"I think it will show the readiness of the two parties to move forward to speed up the process," he said.

But asked if there would be a comprehensive deal by the new deadline, he remained cautious, replying: "We'll see".  — AFP

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