US, Iran in crunch round of nuclear talks

US, Iran in crunch round of nuclear talks
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif pose for a photograph before resuming talks over Iran's nuclear programme in Lausanne March 16, 2015.

LAUSANNE - Iran nuclear talks entered a critical week Monday with US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart sitting down in Switzerland seeking an elusive breakthrough after 18 months of intense negotiations.

Time is running out, however, with Kerry and Mohammad Javad Zarif aiming to agree the outlines of an agreement by the end of the month. A full accord is then due by July 1.

Both men, who began meeting soon after 0700 GMT in a luxury hotel in the lakeside city of Lausanne, are also under intense pressure from domestic hardliners worried they will give too much away.

Speaking in Egypt before travelling to Switzerland, Kerry sought to ease such concerns, saying that the aim is "not just to get any deal, it is to get the right deal".

"If (Iran's nuclear programme is) peaceful, let's get it done. And my hope is that in the next days, that will be possible," Kerry told CBS television.

There were, however, "important gaps," he said.

Zarif said on Sunday that "several questions need to be discussed, those where we haven't found a solution yet and also those where we have found solutions but where we need to discuss certain details."

As of late morning, Kerry and Zarif were still talking. Also present were Iran's nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi and Ernest Moniz, US energy secretary.

Zarif was later Monday due in Brussels to meet his British, French, German and EU counterparts before returning to Lausanne.

Negotiators from the other five powers involved in the talks -- Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany -- were to be involved from Tuesday, according to Iranian officials.

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