The United States Secretary of State has cautioned that America is unwilling to accept “just any deal” over the Iranian nuclear programme.
John Kerry, speaking after a week of high stakes negotiations in Lausanne in Switzerland, told reporters that although “substantial progress” has been achieved, “important gaps remain.”
Mr Kerry’s remarks come as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told his country’s state media that “there is nothing that cannot be resolved”.
President Rouhani, speaking from Tehran, added that “shared points of view emerged in some of the areas where there had been a difference of opinion”.
Six international powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia alongside the US - are involved in high-level discussions around Iran’s nuclear activity.
Although the Middle Eastern nation claims its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes, some world leaders fear the Islamic nation harbours military ambitions.
Mr Kerry, who is due in London later today to discuss the development with the other P5+1 leaders, said: “I’ve had lengthy negotiations with the Iranian team about the steps that Iran must take to demonstrate that its nuclear program now and ongoing in the future is exclusively for peaceful purposes.”
Although emphasising that the US would not be rushing into a deal, noting if they had wanted that “we could have announced something a long time ago," Mr Kerry said decisions "don't get any easier as time goes by."
"It's time to make hard decisions," Mr Kerry added.
The Secretary of State’s broadly optimistic remarks comes amid more negative assessments from French officials.
On Twitter earlier today, the French ambassador to the US called the “artificial deadline” of 31 March for the talks “counterproductive and dangerous”.
Last minute objections raised by France in 2013 sabotaged the previous deal between Iran and western nations.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme Leader – who is thought to have given his tacit approval for many of President Rouhani’s overtures to the west – railed against the US in his New Year’s speech delivered today.
“America is the root of all the problems,” Ayatollah Khameni said in a televised address, reported The New York Times’s Tehran bureau chief Thomas Erdbrink.
The Iranian leader told his people they were “not after nuclear weapons” but stressed that “all sanctions must be removed at once” should the deal go ahead.
Additional reporting by Associated Press