VIENNA: Iran and six major powers gave themselves until July 7 to clinch a historic nuclear deal after a deadline to end marathon talks passed as the clock struck Wednesday, with no breakthrough in sight.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who joined the meeting in Vienna on what was meant to be the final day of talks on Tuesday, said that after almost two years of trying, he still believed a deal to end the 13-year standoff was "within reach".
The talks are "progressing in a positive direction. There remain questions, mostly regarding procedural issues rather than technical," Lavrov told Russian television after meeting US Secretary of State John Kerry.
"We have all reason to believe that results are within reach," Lavrov said.
US President Barack Obama struck a less conciliatory tone in Washington on Tuesday, reiterating that he would not hesitate to "walk away" from a deal if the conditions were not satisfactory.
Obama said Tehran would have to agree to a "strong, rigorous verification mechanism" to seal an accord, which is meant to block Iran's path to a nuclear weapon in exchange for sanctions relief.
Earlier Tuesday Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif returned to Vienna following consultations in Tehran, a visit that had raised hopes he may be bringing instructions that would yield a breakthrough.
But after Kerry met with Zarif for almost two hours following his return, the US State Department said the P5+1 group of global powers had agreed to extend the terms of an interim agreement until July 7.
A State Department official said, however, that this did "not necessarily mean they will go until the 7th or end on the 7th". Kerry has made no plans for when he might leave the Austrian capital.
A member of the Iranian delegation said "the negotiations will continue beyond June 30 without any precise fixed date".
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said a large number of sticking points had been resolved in the talks, but some remained.