The White House said Friday that the United States and its partners have “never been closer” to an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program, but U.S. negotiators should come home if Tehran is unwilling to resolve sticking points.
The talks on a permanent deal between Iran and six world powers, which have already been extended several times and were to end Friday, were extended yet again – this time through the weekend.
"The president has indicated to his negotiating team that they should remain in Vienna and they should continue to negotiate as long as the talks continue to be useful," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at a news briefing, according to the Reuters news agency.
"And if it becomes clear that Iran is not interested in engaging in a constructive way to try to resolve the remaining sticking points, then the negotiators should come home," he added.
Earnest said deadlines are not driving the discussions. Secretary of State John Kerry suggested earlier that Washington's patience was running out, telling reporters in Vienna, "We can't wait forever."
Major disagreements in the talks have included Iran's refusal to allow inspections on sensitive nuclear sites, its refusal to disclose the military aspects of its nuclear program, and in a newly added demand, Iran has called to end the UN arms embargo on the Islamic regime.
One Iranian official admitted on Thursday that "God only knows" if a deal is close, echoing comments attributed to President Barack Obama a day before by a senior Democratic senator, who said Obama believes the chances of a nuclear agreement with Iran are “less than 50-50."
Kerry told reporters on Thursday that "significant process" had been made, but noted that "tough issues remain" and that a deal has yet to be finalized.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)