The White House said it was willing to push back the deadline for reaching a definitive accord with Iran on its nuclear program, which is set for Monday at midnight, by extending a previous agreement allowing part of Tehran's nuclear program to be locked down.
"If the talks are not completed today, then the interim agreement will be extended again," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told his daily press conference.
However, negotiations continue in Vienna as the clock ticks toward midnight, when the fourth period expires for reaching an agreement on Iran's nuclear program that was set by the negotiators: Iran and the P5+1 (Russia, China, Frane and Britain plus Germany).
"Obviously if we could reach a final agreement that would supersede the interim agreement. But the talks continue in Vienna. The thing I can tell you is they have made genuine progress in these conversations," Earnest said.
However, "there continue to be significant issues that remain. They're not going to sign onto an agreement until all of our concerns have been addressed," the White House spokesman said.
For that reason, if the talks fail to reach an agreement on Monday, the U.S. will favor extending the interim accord, which has already been renewed three times, and keep it in force until a definitive settlement is reached.
According to the White House, a unanimous vision exists that the previous accord, which in November 2013 allowed negotiations with Iran to begin, has been useful in that it capped part of the nuclear program that Tehran has always defended as having only civil applications.
In that sense, Earnest said a common commitment exists between the parties to maintain the previous accord, which has already eased some of the sanctions on Iran, until that country and the P5+1 wind up their long negotiating process.
While still a few hours from the time limit, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that no definitive accord would be reached before midnight, according to Iran's official news agency IRNA.
Over the past few hours, leaks to the press from different delegations indicated that an understanding had been reached on all the technical matters of the eventual treaty.
The final goal of a lasting accord is to make sure the Islamic Republic cannot make a nuclear weapon.