Menendez: Iran nuclear deal unlikely by deadline

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Tuesday he didn’t believe the U.S. would reach a deal on Iran’s nuclear program before a self-imposed deadline.

“Personally, I am not optimistic that they will achieve an agreement by that date,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) told reporters.

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U.S. and Iranian officials are in Vienna this week for negotiations over Tehran’s uranium enrichment program and are working to secure an accord by a July 20 deadline. The latest round of talks is slated to end on Friday.

“So, we’ll see … what position we’re in at that time,” said Menendez

The chairman has long expressed skepticism about the U.S. talks with Iran over its nuclear program and has backed legislation that would hit Tehran with additional sanctions if negotiations failed.

The White House has pressed for a diplomatic solution, but lawmakers from both parties and U.S. allies fear Iran is pushing ahead to develop nuclear weapons.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the door was still open to an accord.

“If the other parties enter in negotiations with realistic views, the possibility of a final agreement exists,” he said, according to Reuters.

Officials from the U.S. and Iran are also expected to discuss the worsening security situation in Iraq, where an al Qaeda-linked militant group has seized major cities.