US diplomat: Another Iran extension ‘possible’

A senior U.S. State Department official on Wednesday said negotiations on Iran’s illicit nuclear effort could require extending the talks for a third time.

“We might want a little more time,” Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “That’s possible. I wouldn’t want to rule it out.”

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In his prepared testimony, Blinken said negotiators wanted to “conclude the major element of the deal by the end of March and then to complete the technical details by June.” 

Talks between Tehran and Western powers have twice missed self-imposed deadlines for striking a bargain.

Each time has elicited bipartisan howls from Capitol Hill lawmakers who believe Iran is stringing the U.S. and others along while Tehran works to boost its nuclear capacity.

“I share your concerns that the Iranians are playing for time,” Sen. Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison Acting Defense chief calls Graham an 'ally' after tense exchange William Barr is right man for the times MORE (N.J.), the panel’s top Democrat, said to chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump keeps tight grip on GOP Brexit and exit: A transatlantic comparison Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger MORE (R-Tenn.)

A possible third extension could strengthen the case for legislation being proposed by Menendez and Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkThe global reality behind 'local' problems Dems vow swift action on gun reform next year This week: Trump heads to Capitol Hill MORE (R-Ill.) that would reinstate sanctions against Tehran if a deal is not reached by the deadline.

The Senate Banking panel is due to mark up the bill next week.

Blinken acknowledged in his testimony that the White House sees the chances for a deal at “less than 50-50.”