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US, Iran negotiating terms to extend nuclear talks

US and Iranian officials are hammering out the terms of extending talks on Iran's nuclear program, a US official said, tacitly signalling that a comprehensive deal would not be reached by Sunday's deadline.

WASHINGTON: US and Iranian officials are hammering out the terms of extending talks on Iran's nuclear program, a US official said, tacitly signalling that a comprehensive deal would not be reached by Sunday's deadline.

Asked outright if all sides would get an agreement in the Vienna talks by Sunday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Friday: "I think we're talking about an extension. Stay tuned all weekend."

US President Barack Obama had already acknowledged on Wednesday that more time might be needed to reach an accord on halting Iran's nuclear program in return for lifting economic sanctions against the Islamic regime.

Psaki said the teams in Vienna were now talking to the Iranians about what "the contours of an extension would look like, and tangible progress has been made, but there's more work to do."

She refused to go into details, although US analysts said they believed that a four-month extension was on the table, which would last until around November 23.

Russian media also said world powers, part of the so-called P5+1, were strongly considering delaying Sunday's deadline until November, citing Moscow's negotiator at the Vienna talks.

"The dominant point of view is that we need a new control date in November. That is, a year from reaching the Geneva agreement," RIA Novosti quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying on Friday.

Iran insists it is not seeking the atomic bomb but has stayed firm on its right to peaceful use of nuclear energy in the talks with six powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

Under an interim six-month agreement reached in November, Iran froze its uranium enrichment in return for about US$7 billion in sanctions relief.

Tehran and Washington have pursued exhaustive talks on the nuclear deal - itself a dramatic turnaround in relations for two countries that had virtually no official communication since the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution, which toppled the Western-oriented shah.

Psaki said that there were "a range of options" for how to extend the talks, and under which conditions.

The teams were still meeting late Friday in Vienna, US officials said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry spent two days in Vienna earlier this week meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif to lay the groundwork to extend the talks.

But he had insisted as he left Vienna that all sides were still focused on the July 20 deadline for a deal.

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