With Long-Term Deal Elusive, Iran Nuclear Talks Are Extended

Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, prior to a bilateral meeting in Vienna, Austria, on Sunday. (AP)

With a long-term deal still elusive, Western and Iranian diplomats have decided to keep negotiating perhaps all the way into next summer.

For the past year, Western powers and Tehran have been trying to hammer out a deal that would curb Iran's nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions.

Reporting from Vienna, NPR's Peter Kenyon tells us that the length of the extension is still unclear, but it could be anywhere from three to eight months.

Reuters quotes Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond as saying the talks have been extended into the summer of 2015. The talks will take a break for now and will resume in December, Reuters quotes Hammond as saying.

If you haven't been paying attention. Here's how we got here:

The P5+1 — the U.S., Russia, China, U.K., France plus Germany — want to extend Iran's "breakout time," or the time it would take the country to enrich enough uranium to make a nuclear weapon, while Iran wants to continue enriching for civilian purposes and wants the United States and its allies to lift its economic sanctions.

Over the course of the negotiations, the relationship between the United States and Iran has warmed. That was most evident when President Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke on the phone a year ago. The phone call was the first time the heads of state of the two countries had talked since the 1979 Iranian revolution.

In November, the two countries announced a historic, temporary deal that paused some of Iran's nuclear programs in hopes that a longer-term deal could be hammered out this year. The original deadline was extended.

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