Double overtime: Faltering Iran nuclear talks extended again

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Iran Nuclear Talks Extended, World Leaders To Decide On Crucial Details

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) - With even a vague outline of an Iran nuclear deal eluding their grasp, negotiators headed for double overtime Wednesday night in a marathon attempt to find common ground for a more important task - forging a final deal by the end of June.

Iran and six world powers had cited progress in abandoning their March 31 deadline for the basic understanding that would prepare the ground for a new phase of negotiations on a substantive deal. But as differences persisted into late Wednesday, the State Department announced that Secretary of State John Kerry was postponing his departure and would remain until at least Thursday morning.

The talks - the latest in more than a decade of diplomatic efforts to curb Iran's nuclear prowess - will hit the weeklong mark on Thursday, with diplomats from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany scrambling to reach a framework accord with Iran.

"We continue to make progress but have not reached a political understanding," spokeswoman Marie Harf said in announcing Kerry's decision.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said negotiators were still facing a "tough struggle."

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US Iran Nuclear Talks -- Congress -- John Kerry -- updated 5/22/2015
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Double overtime: Faltering Iran nuclear talks extended again
President Barack Obama speaks at Adas Israel Congregation, Friday May 22, 2015, during Jewish American Heritage Month. The president Barack Obama said he has a personal stake in making sure that a nuclear agreement with Iran delivers on its promise. Saying he will not accept a bad deal. He adds: "This deal will have my name on it." (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 14: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker (2nd L) (R-TN) gavels the start of a Senate Foreign Relations Committee markup meeting on the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran April 14, 2015 in Washington, DC. A bipartisan compromise reached by Corker and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) would create a review period that is shorter than originally proposed for a final nuclear deal with Iran and creates compromise language on the removal of sanctions contingent on Iran ceasing support for terrorism. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 14: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker (L) (R-TN) shakes hands with ranking member Sen. Ben Cardin (R) (D-MD) during a committee markup meeting on the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran April 14, 2015 in Washington, DC. A bipartisan compromise reached by Corker and Cardin would create a review period that is shorter than originally proposed for a final nuclear deal with Iran and creates compromise language on the removal of sanctions contingent on Iran ceasing support for terrorism. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 14: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) (Rear), a Republican presidential candidate, passes Sen. Marco Rubio (bottom), a Republican presidential candidate, as senators make their opening remarks during a markup meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran April 14, 2015 in Washington, DC. A bipartisan compromise reached by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) would create a review period that is shorter than originally proposed for a final nuclear deal with Iran and creates compromise language on the removal of sanctions contingent on Iran ceasing support for terrorism. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
The Senate Foreign Relatipons Committee's ranking member Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., left, slaps Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. on the back as they speak to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 14, 2015, after the committee passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. Republican and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reached a compromise Tuesday on a bill that would give Congress a say on an emerging deal to curb Iran's nuclear program. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., center, talks with John Barrasso, R-Wyo, left, as they arrive with the committee's ranking member Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., right, for a committee business meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 14, 2015, to debate and vote on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 on. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., center, and the committee's ranking member Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., right, speak to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 14, 2015, after the committee passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. Republican and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reached a compromise Tuesday on a bill that would give Congress a say on an emerging deal to curb Iran's nuclear program. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A protestors listens as right Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., left, and the committee's ranking member Ben Cardin, D-Md., center, meet with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 14, 2015, following the committee's vote to approve a bill that would give Congress a say about the emerging deal aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons in exchange for sanctions relief. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Republican presidential candidate and Senate Foreign Relations Committee member, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 14, 2015, during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting to debate and vote on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. listens on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 14, 2015, during debate and vote on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. Republican and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reached a compromise Tuesday on a bill that would give Congress a say on an emerging deal to curb Iran's nuclear program. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 14, 2015, as he departs a briefing on Iran nuclear negotiation. Republican and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reached a compromise Tuesday on a bill that would give Congress a say on an emerging deal to curb Iran's nuclear program. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
US Secretary of State John Kerry gestures as he speaks to the press at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, or Ecole Polytechnique Federale De Lausanne, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Thursday, April 2, 2015, after Iran nuclear program talks finished with extended sessions. The United States, Iran and five other world powers on Thursday announced an understanding outlining limits on Iran's nuclear program so it cannot lead to atomic weapons, directing negotiators toward achieving a comprehensive agreement within three months. (AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)
Energy Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz speaks to the media during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 6, 2015. President Barack Obama is casting the Iran talks as part of a broader foreign policy doctrine that sees American power as a safeguard that gives him the ability to take calculated risks. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a news briefing at the Saadabad palace in Tehran, Iran, Friday April 3, 2015. Rouhani on Friday pledged that his nation will abide by its commitments in the nuclear agreement reached the previous day in Switzerland. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 08: Acting U.S. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf conducts a daily press briefing at the State Department April 8, 2015 in Washington, DC. Harf spoke on various topics including the Iran nuclear deal. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama makes a statement at the White House in Washington, DC, on April 2, 2015 after a deal was reached on Iran's nuclear program. Iran and world powers agreed on the framework of a potentially historic deal aimed at curbing Tehran's nuclear drive after marathon talks in Switzerland. (Photo credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
From left Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond speaks to US Secretary of State John Kerry as European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarifat take their positions before making a statement , at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, or Ecole Polytechnique Federale De Lausanne, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Thursday, April 2, 2015, after Iran nuclear program talks finished with extended sessions. The United States, Iran and five other world powers on Thursday announced an understanding outlining limits on Iran's nuclear program so it cannot lead to atomic weapons, directing negotiators toward achieving a comprehensive agreement within three months. (AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)
US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif arrive to deliver a statement, at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, or Ecole Polytechnique Federale De Lausanne, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Thursday, April 2, 2015, after Iran nuclear program talks finished with extended sessions. The United States, Iran and five other world powers on Thursday announced an understanding outlining limits on Iran's nuclear program so it cannot lead to atomic weapons, directing negotiators toward achieving a comprehensive agreement within three months. (AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, right, waits to make a statement flanked by German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier, left and European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, or Ecole Polytechnique Federale De Lausanne, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Thursday, April 2, 2015, after Iran nuclear program talks finished with extended sessions. The United States, Iran and five other world powers on Thursday announced an understanding outlining limits on Iran's nuclear program so it cannot lead to atomic weapons, directing negotiators toward achieving a comprehensive agreement within three months. (AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 02: A teleprompter shows the text for U.S. President Barack Obama's remarks on negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program on April 2, 2015 in Washington, DC. In exchange for Iran's agreement to curb their country's nuclear proliferation, the United States would lift some of the crippling sanctions imposed. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 2: U.S. President Barack Obama boards Air Force One after making a statement on Iran nuclear negotiations in the White House April 2, 2015 in Washington, DC. The so-called P5+1 nations reached an agreement for an Iranian nuclear program and a process to lift sanctions against Iran after talks in Switzerland. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (C) walks with bodyguard in the garden of the Beau-Rivage Palace hotel during a break in Iran nuclear talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, on April 1, 2015. Rollercoaster talks aimed at stopping Iran getting a nuclear bomb went into extra time amid cautious signs that after seven days of tough negotiations a framework deal may be near.  (Photo credit: ABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) gestures while waiting for the opening of a plenary session with P5+1 ministers, European Union and Iranian minister on Iran nuclear talks at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland, on March 31, 2015. Foreign ministers from major powers kicked off early a final scheduled day of talks aimed at securing the outlines of a potentially historic nuclear deal with Iran by a midnight deadline. (Photo credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND - MARCH 31: P5+1 Ministers, European Union and Iranian officials wait for the opening of a plenary session on Iran nuclear talks at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel on March 31, 2015. (Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)
LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND - MARCH 31: German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier waits for the opening of a plenary session on Iran nuclear talks P5+1 Ministers, European Union and Iranian officials at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel on March 31, 2015. (Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry, centre, sits at the negotiating table with U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, left and U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, during a meeting with Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif over Iran's nuclear program, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Thursday, March 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Brian Snyder, Pool)
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif walks into another negotiating meeting with United States Secretary of State John Kerry over Iran's nuclear program in Lausanne, Switzerland Wednesday March 18, 2015. American and Iranian negotiators raced to fill out a framework for rolling back Iran's nuclear program and punitive U.S. economic sanctions, hoping for enough progress to call in other world powers for the finishing touches on an agreement next week. (AP Photo/Brian Snyder, Pool)
In this photo released by an official website of the office of the Iranian Supreme Leader, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers speech during a meeting with air force commanders and officers in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015. Iran's top leader says no deal is better than a bad deal when it comes to negotiations with world powers over the country's disputed nuclear program. (AP Photo/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader)
WASHINGTON, USA - FEBRUARY 5: Senator Tom Cotton speaks during a news conference with members of the Senate Armed Services Committee about arming Ukraine in the fight against Russia in Washington, D.C. on February 5, 2015. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 03: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (3rd L) poses for photographers with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (2nd L), Senate Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) (4th L), Senate Majority Whip Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) (L) and Minority Whip Sen. Richard Durbin (DIL) (R) prior to a meeting at the U.S. Capitol March 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. At the risk of further straining the relationship between Israel and the Obama Administration, Netanyahu addressed a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress warning congressional members against what he considers an ill-advised nuclear deal with Iran. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 3: Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before joint session of Congress, on March, 03, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
President Barack Obama speaks about Iran and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress, Tuesday, March 3, 2015, during a meeting with Defense Secretary Ash Carter in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. The president said Netanyahu didn't offer any "viable alternatives" to the nuclear negotiations with Iran during his speech to Congress. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (Far R) goes for a stroll with assistant and security on the shore of Lake Geneva upon his arrival on February 22, 2015 in Geneva. Kerry arrived in Geneva for renewed talks with his Iranian counterpart on Tehran's nuclear programme, after warning 'significant gaps' remain as a key deadline approaches. Kerry is set to sit down for two days of talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, whose country denies its nuclear programme has military objectives. (Photo credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) arrives at his hotel on February 22, 2015 in Geneva. Kerry arrived in Geneva for renewed talks with his Iranian counterpart on Tehran's nuclear programme, after warning 'significant gaps' remain as a key deadline approaches. Kerry is set to sit down for two days of talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, whose country denies its nuclear programme has military objectives. (Photo credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) walks back to his hotel after on February 23, 2015 in Geneva. Washington and Tehran's top diplomats sat down again on February 23 for talks on Iran's nuclear program as they struggled to narrow gaps ahead of a key deadline. (Photo credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (C) goes for a stroll with assistants and security along the shores of Lake Geneva upon his arrival on February 22, 2015 in Geneva. Kerry arrived in Geneva for renewed talks with his Iranian counterpart on Tehran's nuclear programme, after warning 'significant gaps' remain as a key deadline approaches. Kerry is set to sit down for two days of talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, whose country denies its nuclear programme has military objectives. (Photo credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 21: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a media briefing at the U.S. Embassy on February 21, 2015 in London, England. Earlier Kerry met with British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond and it's expected that the issue of the continuing conflict in the Ukraine will dominate talks between the two nations. (Photo by Neil Hall - Pool/Getty Images)
Is the U.S. being too soft on Iran when negotiating on sanctions and a potential nuclear deal? Strategic Policy Consulting's Alireza Jafarzadeh and WSJ's Simon Constable discuss.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif before a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. Zarif said on Wednesday that his meeting with Kerry was important to see if progress could be made in narrowing differences on his country's disputed nuclear program. (AP Photo/Rick Wilking, Pool)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the media after the closed-door nuclear talks with Iran, in Vienna, Austria, Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. Facing still significant differences between the U.S. and Iran, negotiators gave up on last-minute efforts to get a nuclear deal by the Monday deadline and extended their talks for another seven months. The move gives both sides breathing space to work out an agreement but may be badly received by domestic sceptics, since it extends more than a decade of diplomatic efforts to curb Iran's nuclear prowess. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, looks over the weapons carried by Swiss police posing for a picture with him as he departs Geneva Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. U.S. Secretary of State Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif met for six hours Wednesday, a day before negotiators from Iran, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany are to resume talks here. (AP Photo/Rick Wilking, Pool)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, waits with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif before a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. Zarif said on Wednesday that his meeting with Kerry was important to see if progress could be made in narrowing differences on his country's disputed nuclear program. (AP Photo/Rick Wilking, Pool)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the media after the closed-door nuclear talks with Iran, in Vienna, Austria, Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. Facing still significant differences between the U.S. and Iran, negotiators gave up on last-minute efforts to get a nuclear deal by the Monday deadline and extended their talks for another seven months. The move gives both sides breathing space to work out an agreement but may be badly received by domestic sceptics, since it extends more than a decade of diplomatic efforts to curb Iran's nuclear prowess. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
Delegations of US Secretary of State John Kerry, Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, , left side from left, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, center right, and former EU foreign pilicy chief Catherine Ashton, center,sit around the negotiations table during their talks on Iran, in Vienna, Austria, Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Joe Klamar, Pool)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif laughs with reporters before meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. Zarif said on Wednesday that his meeting with Kerry was important to see if progress could be made in narrowing differences on his country's disputed nuclear program. (AP Photo/Rick Wilking, Pool)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif before a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. Zarif said on Wednesday that his meeting with Kerry was important to see if progress could be made in narrowing differences on his country's disputed nuclear program. (AP Photo/Rick Wilking, Pool)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif talks with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius, during a meeting at the Quai d'Orsay, in Paris, Friday, Jan. 16, 2015. An American official says U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with his Iranian counterpart in Paris on Friday in what will be their second face-to-face encounter this week. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
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A French diplomat said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was heading for Lausanne less than a day after he departed. Asked why, the diplomat referred a reporter to the minister's comments earlier in the day when he said he would come back if there were chances for a deal.

At the same time, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif accused his country's negotiating partners, particularly the U.S., of having "defective" political will in the talks.

"I've always said that an agreement and pressure do not go together, they are mutually exclusive," he told reporters. "So our friends need to decide whether they want to be with Iran based on respect or whether they want to continue based on pressure."

The negotiators' intention is to produce a joint statement outlining general political commitments to resolve concerns about the Iranians' nuclear program in exchange for relief of economic sanctions against Iran. In addition, they are trying to fashion other documents that would lay out in more detail the steps they must take by June 30 to meet those goals.

But Iran has pushed back, demanding a general statement with few specifics. That is politically unpalatable for the Obama administration, which must convince a hostile Congress that it has made progress in the talks so lawmakers do not enact new sanctions that could destroy the negotiations.

By blowing through self-imposed deadlines, Obama risks further antagonizing lawmakers in both parties who are poised to take their own action to upend a deal if they determine the president has been too conciliatory.

The initial response to the extensions from Republicans suggested they had already come to that conclusion.

"It is clear, the negotiations are not going well," said Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham in a statement. "At every step, the Iranians appear intent on retaining the capacity to achieve a nuclear weapon.

Iran's Zarif insisted the result of this round of talks "will not be more than a statement." But a senior Western official said Iran's negotiating partners would not accept a document that contained no details. The official was not authorized to speak to the negotiations by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Deputy Iranian Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi named differences on sanctions relief as one dispute - but also suggested some softening of Tehran's long-term insistence that all sanctions be lifted immediately once a final deal takes effect.

He told Iranian TV that economic, financial, oil and bank sanctions imposed by the U.S., the European Union and others should be done away with as "the first step of the deal." Alluding to separate U.N. sanctions, he said a separate "framework" was needed for them.

Araghchi has spoken of such an arrangement before. But both Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani have since demanded full and total sanctions lifting, and the floating of the approach now suggested an Iranian shift.

Araghchi also rejected U.S. demands of strict controls on Iran's uranium enrichment-related research and development, saying such activities "should continue."

The U.S. and its negotiating partners want to crimp Iranian efforts to improve the performance of centrifuges that enrich uranium because advancing the technology could let Iran produce material that could be used to arm a nuclear weapon much more quickly than at present.

The additional documents the U.S. wants would allow the sides to make the case that the next round of talks will not simply be a continuation of negotiations that have already been twice extended since an interim agreement between Iran, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany was concluded in 2013. President Barack Obama and other leaders, including Iran's, have said they are not interested in a third extension.

Meanwhile, the White House says new sanctions could not only scuttle further diplomatic efforts to contain Iran's nuclear work but possibly lead Israel to act on threats to use military force to accomplish that goal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has campaigned tirelessly for months against the emerging agreement, said it would "ensure a bad deal that would endanger Israel, the Middle East and the peace of the world."

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