U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is heading back to Switzerland Wednesday for deadline negotiations with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif about Tehran's nuclear development program.
The two diplomats are set to meet Thursday in Lausanne, just days before their self-imposed March 31 deadline to reach an agreement that could restrain development of Iranian nuclear weapons for years and ease Western economic sanctions against Tehran.
Kerry and envoys from five other world powers - China, Russia, France, Germany and Britain - have been negotiating for months with Iran in an effort to reach a preliminary accord by the end of March and a final settlement by the end of June.
But they have been stymied by details of a prospective pact, such as the number of centrifuges that Iran would be allowed to operate for what Tehran says is a civilian nuclear program and the pace of ending the sanctions.
In a telephone call Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged Zarif to reach an agreement now that "the Iran nuclear talks have reached the final sprint in the marathon."
A statement issued by the foreign ministry in Beijing quoted Wang as saying, "Reaching an agreement is the trend of the times and the will of the people, which accords with the joint and long-term interests of all sides, including Iran."
Israel, meanwhile, is continuing its bid to thwart any agreement that it considers to be too lenient toward Iran, if it still allows Tehran to develop nuclear weaponry in the future. Israeli intelligence chief Youval Steinitz warned French officials this week that the deal being considered "would be a bad accord, with severe gaps in it."