VIENNA: Iran and the six powers Saturday extended nuclear talks until Nov. 24, in recognition that their differences were too big to reach a deal by the informal deadline of Sunday.
The decision was expected, with much of Friday spent on debating not obstacles standing in the way of an agreement but how long the add-on talks should go on and other related details.
"We have made tangible process on some of the issues," said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who coordinated the talks. But she cautioned of "significant gaps on some core issues which will require more time and effort."
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif read the same statement in Farsi. Neither took questions.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who flew into Vienna a week ago to try and advance the talks, also spoke of "tangible progress" in a statement released in Washington, while noting substantial differences on some issues. He said stretching out the talks for four more months "is warranted by the progress we've made and the path forward we can envision."
However, Republican U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement that he did not see the extension as progress.
"It looks like the Iranians won extra time with a good cop-bad cop routine," he said.
French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said Saturday that he hoped the extension on nuclear talks between the West and Iran would convince Tehran to make the "indispensable choices" needed to reach a long term deal, but warned that major differences still remained.
"France hopes that this new deadline will allow Iran to make indispensable choices that we are expecting in order to reach a long-term, credible and lasting agreement.”
"The discussions with Iran have seen some progress on certain points, but major differences remain on several subjects, uranium enrichment in particular," he said, during a visit to Cairo.
Fabius added that Iran was expected to cooperate with the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over possible military dimensions to its nuclear program.
"Iran has committed to show results to the IAEA by the end of month. These would be an important signal of Iran's seriousness before the discussions resume in September."
Since the current phase of talks began early this year, the biggest obstacle has been uranium enrichment, which can make both reactor fuel and the core of a nuclear warhead. Iran says it does not want such weapons but demands it be allowed to keep its present program. The United States and its Western allies want deep cuts.
Neither Zarif nor Ashton named a time or venue for the next meetings saying only they will be held in "coming weeks."