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Extension of Iran nuclear deadline "likely" on Friday: China

Iran and world powers are "likely" to agree on Friday on the terms of extending a Sunday deadline to reach a nuclear deal, China's chief negotiator in talks in Vienna said.

VIENNA: Iran and world powers are "likely" to agree on Friday on the terms of extending a Sunday deadline to reach a nuclear deal, China's chief negotiator in talks in Vienna said.

"Yes, it is likely," Wang Qun told reporters, adding however that Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security plus Germany were still "discussing" how long the extension would be and other issues.

Wang also said that generally speaking, he was "encouraged" by progress made in the talks in recent months, which are aimed at easing for good fears that Iran might develop nuclear weapons.

"I have reasons to draw encouragement from what we have achieved so far, but nevertheless I think there are issues we need to zero in on, where the two sides are apart," he said.

Iran and the six powers have been negotiating almost constantly since February, trying to strike an accord by July 20 when an interim deal agreed in Geneva in November expires.

Washington and Iran earlier this week laid the groundwork for pushing back the deadline after US Secretary of State John Kerry held two days of intense talks with his Iranian counterpart that failed to produce a breakthrough.

The two sides are believed to have narrowed their positions in recent weeks on a few issues such as the Arak reactor, which could give Iran with weapons-grade plutonium, and enhanced inspections.

But they remain far apart on the key issue of Iran's capacities to enrich uranium, a process which can produce fuel for reactors but also the core of a nuclear bomb.

"It's clear to me that we have made real progress in several areas and that we have a credible way forward," US President Barack Obama said on Wednesday.

"But as we approach a deadline under the interim deal, there are still significant gaps between the international community and Iran and we have more work to do," Obama told reporters.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Tuesday that he recommended giving the negotiations more time.

"As we stand now, we have made enough headway to be able to tell our political bosses that this is a process worth continuing," Zarif said.

Under the November interim deal, Iran froze certain nuclear activities in return for minor relief from sanctions. Negotiating an extension is no easy matter, experts say.

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