A senior Iranian official indicated on Tuesday that progress was being achieved in expert-level talks between Tehran and six world powers over the implementation of a landmark nuclear deal.
But Iranian Ambassador Reza Najafi added that the meeting, which began on Monday at the Vienna headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog, would continue for a third day on Wednesday.
The goal is to work out nitty gritty details of implementing the Nov. 24 interim accord under which Iran will curb its disputed nuclear programme in return for some easing of sanctions that have battered its oil-dependent economy.
Asked whether good progress was being made, Najafi told reporters: "Yes. We are going to continue tomorrow." Najafi is Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, which will have a key role in verifying that Iran fulfils its side of the agreement.
Officials from Iran, the United States, China, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, the European Union and the IAEA attended the meeting in the Austrian capital.
The preliminary accord is seen as a first step towards resolving a decade-old standoff over suspicions Iran might be covertly pursuing a nuclear weapons "breakout" capability, a perception that has raised the risk of a wider Middle East war. Western diplomats said detailed matters not addressed at the Nov. 20-24 talks in Geneva must be ironed out before the deal can be put into practice.
These include how and when the IAEA, which regularly visits Iranian nuclear sites to try to ensure there are no diversions of atomic material, will carry out its expanded role.
A start to sanctions relief would hinge on verification that Iran was fulfilling its side of the accord, they said.
The deal was designed to halt Iran's nuclear advances for a period of six months to buy time for negotiations on a final settlement of the standoff. Diplomats say implementation may start in January after the technical details have been settled.
Scope for easing the dispute peacefully opened after the June election of a comparative moderate, Hassan Rouhani, as Iranian president. He won in a landslide by pledging to ease Tehran's international isolation and win relief from sanctions that have severely damaged the oil producer's economy.