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Top US Iran Negotiator Departing Post

FILE - U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman.

The lead U.S. negotiator in the Iran nuclear talks is leaving her post when they end.

On Thursday, the State Department said Wendy Sherman, the under secretary of state for political affairs, will be “moving on” after the talks.

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany – the so-called P5+1 – have set a June 30 deadline for an agreement.

State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke has said the U.S. “is not contemplating an extension.” However, in recent days, Iranian officials and the French ambassador to the U.S., Gerard Araud, have signaled that talks could continue past June.

There was no immediate word of a successor for Sherman, the third highest official at the State Department. But Rathke said she had assembled a team that could continue engaging with Iran if there is a nuclear agreement.

“One of the things that Under Secretary Sherman has made a point of doing is to mentor colleagues and to build a large and strong negotiating team,” said Rathke.

“This team that the under secretary has put together and has led over these last couple of years will continue to track Iran’s nuclear program, if we get a deal,” he added.

Word of Sherman’s departure came as she prepared to travel to Vienna to take part in another round of P5+1 negotiations with Iran. The New York Times quoted Sherman as saying, “It’s been two long years.”

On Saturday, she will join Secretary of State John Kerry and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz for meetings with Iranian officials, including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Sherman has been an important part of the U.S. negotiating team, said Mark Fitzpatrick, non-proliferation director at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“Her skill at negotiating. Her willingness to seek alternative means of meeting goals has been crucial to getting us to the point we are today,” he said in an interview with VOA’s Persian Service.

Sherman was sworn in as under secretary of state in 2011, following a stint with a global strategy firm.

Previously, Sherman worked as State Department counselor, a special advisor on North Korea. She also served as an assistant secretary to Secretary of State Warren Christopher in the mid 1990s.