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Reports that a nuclear deal with Iran will be imminently announced are “speculative,” a senior State Department official says.

Aerial view of Tehran
Aerial view of Tehran. (photo credit:REUTERS)

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VIENNA – Foreign ministers from world powers are converging once again on Austria’s capital on Sunday, hoping to finally end talks with Iran over its nuclear program with a deal.

The agreement is essentially complete, Iranian officials here say, and will be formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Negotiations went past midnight on Saturday, and began around 8 a.m. on Sunday morning between top negotiators from the US, European Union and Iran. The talks have been ongoing for sixteen straight days.

A senior State Department official said on Sunday that reports that a nuclear deal with Iran will be imminently announced are “speculative,” shooting down a host of media reports suggesting otherwise.

“We have never speculated about the timing of anything during these negotiations, and we’re certainly not going to start now,” the official said, “especially given the fact that major issues remain to be resolved in these talks.”

Among other outlets, The Associated Press and Reuters have quoted officials as saying that an historic nuclear agreement could come down as early as Sunday night.

US Secretary of State John Kerry prayed in the city’s central church, the Stephansdom, this morning, before returning to the luxury Palais Coburg hotel to meet with his delegates.

“I think we’re getting to some real decisions,” Kerry said. “So I will say, because we have a few tough things to do, I remain hopeful.” Returning to Vienna from an emergency meeting in Paris on the situation in Greece, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also expressed “hope” that the moment of decision had finally come.

“I hope, I hope, that we are finally entering the final phase of this marathon negotiation,” Fabius told gathered press.

And a Russian media outlet said that its foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, would engage in the talks later in the day.

Iranian delegates say the agreement could be announced as early as Sunday night. But they, too, cautioned that some issues remain for the ministers from each participating nation at the talks— the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany, with Iran— to settle together and for themselves.

That meeting is expected this afternoon once all the ministers are in the same room.

But none have detailed precisely what those issues are, with 98 percent of the text said to be complete. The document is understood to be 20 pages of core text with over 80 pages of detailed, technical annexes.

Israel opposes the deal in its current form, and on Sunday its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, compared US President Barack Obama’s policy to former president Bill Clinton’s approach to North Korea back in 1994.

A framework agreement meant announced at that time, which was meant to prevent North Korea from acquiring a nuclear weapon, ultimately failed to do so. Pyongyang conducted its first nuclear weapons test in 2006.

Iran asserts that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, and says it has the right to produce its own nuclear power on its own terms. The Iranian population largely supports this position.

Celebrations are expected in the streets of Tehran upon the announcement of a deal. Iranian state-run media, IRNA, says that the Tehran police department is preparing to provide the security necessary to maintain order at the rallies.

World powers seek to cap, restrict, monitor and partially roll back Iran’s nuclear program to ensure that it cannot acquire a nuclear weapon. In exchange for curbs and intrusive inspections, powers will phase out their restrictions over time and will provide swift sanctions relief.
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