Philip Hammond joins John Kerry at Iran nuclear deal talks as deadline looms

The US secretary of state is expected to push back the planned deadline to reach a deal

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The Independent Online

The deadline is looming for the United States and its allies to do a deal with Iran over the country’s nuclear programme.

Secretary of state John Kerry is attending talks in the Austrian capital of Vienna with Iran and five other world powers, including Britain.

UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond left for Vienna yesterday, warning that there was still a “very significant gap” in negotiations, though he also said it was “clear both sides want to get a deal done”.

The deadline for the talks, due on Monday, is expected to be extended further if a deal cannot be reached this weekend.

A spokesperson for the US state department said Mr Kerry would stay longer at the talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif in order to secure a deal.

"Secretary Kerry has delayed his departure from Vienna, Austria, in order to continue consultations with Foreign Minister Zarif,”a US State Department said.

The meeting will also include German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and French foreign minister Laurent Fabius. Other foreign ministers expected to join the discussions by conference call.

The US and Iran disagree on the extent to which the middle eastern country’s nuclear development should be restricted.

Iran says its programme is for peaceful purposes such a generating electricity, but the US fears that it could be used to build nuclear weapons.

The U.N. Security Council’s so called P5+1 group —the US, Russia, China, UK, France and Germany no longer want Iran to complete suspend it nuclear programme, but want binding assurances that it is for peaceful purposes.

Despite objections, Iran has entered talks in the hope of reducing sanctions imposed on it by the US, which are damaging the Islamic republic’s economic development.

Ahead of the talks, Mr Kerry described the discussions taking place this weekend as “very critical” to reaching a solution after around a decade of diplomacy.

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