Kerry threatens to quit Iran nuke talks after more delays

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Iran Nuclear Talks Pass Another Deadline

VIENNA (AP) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry threatened Thursday to walk away from nuclear talks as he signaled that diplomats won't conclude an agreement over the coming hours - another delay that this time could complicate American efforts to quickly implement any deal.

"This is not open-ended," Kerry told reporters outside the 19th-century Viennese palace hosting the negotiations. "We can't wait forever for the decision to be made. If the tough decisions don't get made, we are absolutely prepared to call an end to this process."

It was the strongest indication yet of U.S. frustration with Iran. It comes two days after President Barack Obama promised Senate Democrats the same response to Iranian intransigence, suggesting patience for continuing the current round of discussions was running out as it headed into its 14th day.

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Kerry threatens to quit Iran nuke talks after more delays
US Secretary of State John Kerry organizes his papers during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill July 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. US Secretary of State John Kerry, US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and US Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew appeared before the committee to defend the Obama administrations proposed deal with Iran over the county's nuclear program. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) sits next to British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond as they attend a plenary session at the United Nations building in Vienna, Austria July 14, 2015. Iran and six major world powers reached a nuclear deal on Tuesday, capping more than a decade of on-off negotiations with an agreement that could potentially transform the Middle East, and which Israel called an 'historic surrender'. AFP PHOTO / POOL / CARLOS BARRIA (Photo credit should read CARLOS BARRIA/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement in his office in Jerusalem on July 14, 2015, after world powers reached a historic nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu said after the deal was reached that Israel was not bound by it and signalled he remained ready to order military action . AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX (Photo credit should read THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)
(From L to R) Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz pose for a group picture at the United Nations building in Vienna, Austria July 14, 2015. Iran and six major world powers reached a nuclear deal, capping more than a decade of on-off negotiations with an agreement that could potentially transform the Middle East, and which Israel called an 'historic surrender'. AFP PHOTO / POOL / JOE KLAMAR (Photo credit should read JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)
German Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier (L) ,French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (3rd L), China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi (5th L), Federica Mogherini (C), High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, US Secretary of State John Kerry (3rd R), British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond (2nd R) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (R) sit around the table at the Palais Coburg Hotel where the Iran nuclear talks meetings are being held in Vienna, Austria on July 6, 2015. Foreign ministers from major powers began crunch talks in Vienna on Monday seeking to seal a historic nuclear deal to end a 13-year standoff, one day before a final deadline, officials said. AFP PHOTO / JOE KLAMAR (Photo credit should read JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (L), French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (3rd L) and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) sit around the table at the Palais Coburg Hotel where the Iran nuclear talks meetings are being held in Vienna, Austria on July 6, 2015. Foreign ministers from major powers began crunch talks in Vienna on Monday seeking to seal a historic nuclear deal to end a 13-year standoff, one day before a final deadline, officials said. AFP PHOTO / POOL / CARLOS BARRIA (Photo credit should read CARLOS BARRIA/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry walks delivers a statement on Cuba outside the hotel where the Iran nuclear talks meetings are being held in Vienna, Austria, July 1, 2015. Talks between Iran and major powers towards a historic nuclear deal are facing tough issues but are making progress, US Secretary of State John Kerry said during a break from talks in Vienna. AFP PHOTO / CHRISTIAN BRUNA (Photo credit should read CHRISTIAN BRUNA/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama gestures while making 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. AFP PHOTO/ NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 14: Sen. Bob Corker, Senate Foreign Relations chairman, arrives for a briefing on Iran nuclear negotiations with Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama's chief of staff Jack Lew in the Capitol on Tuesday, April 14, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius (R) listens on as US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a joint press conference on March 7, 2015 at the Foreign Affairs Minister in Paris. Kerry had flown into Paris just a couple of hours earlier in a bid to shore up European support for the proposed deal with Iran ahead of a March 31 deadline. AFP PHOTO /ERIC FEFERBERG (Photo credit should read ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
EU political director Helga Schmid (CL) seats next to Iran's deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi (R) at the opening of nuclear talks between Iran and Members of the P5+1 group on March 5, 2015 in Montreux. The so-called P5+1 group of Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany is trying to strike an accord that would prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 03: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (3rd L) talks to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Majority Whip Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) (L) as Senate Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) (R) looks on during a photo-op 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)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) is greeted by French Foreign Minister Fabius Laurent, on March 7, 2015, at the French Foreign Ministry in Paris. Flying in from London on the last stop of a week-long trip, Kerry will meet with the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and Britain to brief them on the status of the nuclear negotiations with Iran. AFP PHOTO/ERIC FEFERBERG (Photo credit should read ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND - MARCH 28: German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrives at Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne, Switzerland where he came for the nuclear talks with Iran on March 28, 2015. (Photo by Fatih Erel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND - MARCH 28: German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrives at Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne, Switzerland where he came for the nuclear talks with Iran on March 28, 2015. (Photo by Fatih Erel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman (L) and US Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd L) face French Director-General for Political and Security Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nicolas de Riviere (2nd R), and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (R) at the opening of a bilateral meetinh at Iran nuclear talks on March 28, 2015 in Lausanne. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
The director-general for political and security affairs at the French Foreign Ministry, Nicolas de Riviere (2nd R), and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (R) wait look on March 28, 2015 before a meeting at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel March 28, 2015 in Lausanne. US Secretary of State John Kerry and Fabius met while in Switzerland for negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program.. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (C) takes a walk before meetings at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel March 28, 2015 in Lausanne. Iranian officials are in Switzerland to continue negotiations on their nuclear program with other world powers. AFP PHOTO / POOL / BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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Thursday's latest delay for a comprehensive deal is significant. Iran is demanding prompt easing of economic penalties for nuclear concessions, and the longer it takes world powers to make good on their promises, the longer they'll have to wait for the Iranians to scale back their nuclear program.

Under U.S. law, the seven nations negotiating in Vienna have to complete the accord before the end of Thursday in Washington to avoid invoking a 60-day congressional review period during which President Barack Obama cannot waive sanctions on Iran. If they meet the target, the review would only be 30 days.

The specter of prolonged public relations campaigns for and against the pact also may not work in Obama's favor. The delay could imply that the U.S., Iran and other negotiating powers may end up having to push off the talks until September when any deal would again only amount to a 30-day review period.

"We will not rush and we will not be rushed," Kerry said.

"We would not be here continuing to negotiate just for the sake of negotiating. We're here because we believe we are making real progress toward a comprehensive deal," he said. But, he added: "We are not going to sit at the negotiating table forever."

Kerry spoke after discussing the state-of-play with other world powers for almost an hour Thursday evening. That conversation followed a flurry of other closed-door meetings, including a 45-minute session between Kerry and his Iranian counterpart.

"We're working hard, but not rushed, to get the job done," Zarif tweeted.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he would remain in Austria's capital for negotiations into Friday morning, citing "good things, but there is still work to do."

However, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who has been leading the American negotiating team alongside Kerry, was to leave the talks for most of Friday to visit Portugal to discuss climate change matters with the president, prime minister and other senior officials.

The current round of talks has already been extended twice since it started on June 27, as has an interim nuclear accord with Iran that these negotiations are meant to finalize. The preliminary deal was due to expire on June 30, then July 7 and then Friday. It would have to be renewed a third time if the talks go beyond Friday.

At an economic summit in Russia, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said his nation was preparing for a "post-sanctions" era, suggesting a deal may be in sight to curb Iran's nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

Kerry spoke by phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who was also in Russia and voiced optimism, saying he was prepared to return to Vienna.

And in what was widely seen as a hint that the talks might soon wrap up, the White House late Wednesday issued a brief statement saying President Barack Obama had conferred with the U.S. negotiating team through a secure video call.

The last time Obama held a secure conference call with his negotiators on the road was shortly before the framework for a final accord was reached on April 2 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Kerry, nursing a broken leg, has been in Vienna since June 26, while Zarif has made one short trip to Tehran for consultations. Other foreign ministers have come and gone. All but the top diplomats from Russia and China were present at Thursday's meetings.

When the talks missed their second deadline it raised new questions about the ability of world powers to cut off all Iranian pathways to nuclear weapons through diplomacy.

Long-standing differences persist over inspections of Iranian facilities and the Islamic republic's research and development of advanced nuclear technology.

New difficulties also have surfaced over the past few days. Iran is pushing for an end to a U.N. arms embargo on the country but Washington opposes that demand.

Russia's Lavrov took Tehran's side.

"Our Western partners, who did not support a draft resolution entirely acceptable to the other parties, are at fault, not Iran," he tweeted.

Watch this analysis of the Iran nuclear situation:

Jerry Seib: The Consequences of a Delayed Iran Deal


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