VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran and six major powers have so far not discussed extending negotiations on a nuclear agreement despite the fact that their deadline is a week away, a senior U.S. official said on Monday.
Senior foreign officials from Iran and the six powers - the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China - gather in Vienna this week for the last round of negotiations before a Nov. 24 deadline to reach an accord that would end sanctions in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s atomic program.
“We have continued to make some progress in the course of these negotiations but we still have gaps to close and we do not yet know if we will be able to do so,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
“Extension (of the negotiations) is not and has not been a subject of negotiations at this point.”
Despite nearly a year of talks, Iranian and Western officials have said the deadline is unlikely to be met, and an extension is the most likely scenario.
They say it is possible to agree the outline of a future agreement over the next week, but that the details would need months to work out. A new interim deal may also be possible.
The senior U.S. official denied media reports that the United States had given Iran an eight-page proposal at recent talks in Oman, saying: “There was not a piece of paper that the Iranians walked away with.”
Another senior Western diplomat said: “The negotiations are hardly progressing ... The Iranians are not moving an inch. We’re 10 days before the end of talks ... We’re still very far apart.”
Iran denies Western accusations that it is seeking, or has sought, to acquire a nuclear weapons capability, and refuses to halt its uranium enrichment, which it says is purely peaceful.
Meanwhile, U.S., EU and U.N. sanctions have caused Iranian oil revenues to plummet and inflation and unemployment to soar.
Some diplomats said a simple extension of the negotiations, originally supposed to finish last July, was possible, and a senior Iranian official said this could be until March.
Several Western officials say it is unclear if Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has given his negotiating team the authority to make compromises.
The sticking points include the future scope of Iran’s uranium enrichment and the speed at which sanctions would be lifted.
Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris; Editing by Kevin Liffey