With Iran nuclear deal said to be close, negotiators to hold final meeting

With a historic deal on Iran’s nuclear program reported to be imminent, negotiators from the countries involved in the talks will hold a final meeting Tuesday, officials said.

Representatives of the United States, Iran and the other participating nations will meet at 10:30 a.m. in Vienna (4:30 a.m. ET), after which press conferences are expected to be held, U.S. and E.U. officials said.

A senior Iranian diplomat directly involved in the talks said Monday night, “We are very close but not there yet. Let’s see what’s going to happen in the next few hours.”

The multilateral negotiations aimed at reining in Iran’s nuclear program began in 2013. The final phase of talks in Vienna has dragged on for weeks, repeatedly blowing through earlier deadlines.

But all the sides taking part in the marathon negotiations have stuck it out.

Besides the United States and Iran, the final meeting Tuesday will include officials from China, the European Union, France, Germany, Russia and the UK.

Leaders of the Western nations involved in the talks have backed a deal as the best way to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

Iran, meanwhile, has been eager to get rid of international economic sanctions that have been squeezing its economy.

The essential idea behind a potential deal is that in exchange for limits on its nuclear activities, Iran would get relief from sanctions while being allowed to continue its atomic program for peaceful purposes.

Such a deal has faced fierce criticism from Republicans in the U.S. Congress, as well as from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a longstanding critic of the negotiations.

As recently as late Monday, sticking points remained in the Vienna talks, including Iran’s insistence on the lifting of an embargo on the sale of conventional weapons and missiles, multiple sources said.

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