Both sides in the international negotiations over Iran's nuclear program expect the process to extend past their long-standing, self-imposed Tuesday deadline for reaching a comprehensive agreement.
Officials from the United States and Iran said Sunday that delegations are planning to stay in Vienna past Tuesday with several key pieces still left unresolved.
Those points are believed to include access that inspectors from the U.N.'s nuclear agency would have to Iranian sites as well as the pace at which sanctions against Iran would be lifted.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif returned home for consultations Sunday and was expected to return to Vienna Tuesday. A senior U.S. official said the trip was not a concern, and that it was expected participants would come and go from Vienna during the negotiations.
Delays have been the norm during the multi-year process that has brought Iran and the group of countries that includes the U.S., Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany to this point in their talks.
Several times they have decided to extend past their own deadlines, including when they needed a few extra days to come to an interim agreement in early April.
That plan was supposed to set the foundation for a final agreement providing Iran with relief from sanctions that have hurt its economy, while restricting its ability to make nuclear weapons. But some negotiators have indicated there have been disagreements over the parameters set in the framework deal.
Some diplomats say the real deadline for finalizing an agreement is July 9. After that point, the period of time the U.S. Congress has to review the agreement would extend from 30 to 60 days.
In a VOA interview, Marie Harf, the State Department senior advisor for strategic communications, said the talks were likely to go past the original Tuesday deadline.
“We are not looking at a long-term extension of any kind but if we need a few extra days, which it looks like we may, we will take those to get the strongest deal possible,” said Harf.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters Sunday in Vienna the talks had “always been tough,” but that negotiators could reach an agreement if there is “strong political will.”