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Steinmeier: Iran talks in endgame in Lausanne

Negotiations over Iran's nuclear program have continued in the Swiss city of Lausanne. While some progress has been reported, the two sides still appeared far from reaching a deal.

As he arrived in Lausanne for the nuclear talks, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters that a lot of work still had to be done before a

preliminary agreement could be reached to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

"After 10 years, almost 12 years, of negotiations with Iran, the endgame, so to speak, has begun," Steinmeier said. But at the same time he also warned that "the final meters" were not only "the toughest but the most decisive."

He also expressed the hope "that the attempt to reach a final agreement here will not be abandoned."

Later, the German foreign office announced via Twitter that Steinmeier had begun talks with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammed Javad Zarif.

France's foreign minister Laurent Fabius also said that while the

"long and difficult" negotiations

up until now had produced progress "on certain issues," there had not been enough on others.

Some issues "twisted"

The head of Iran's nuclear agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, also indicated that the Tehran and the so-called P5+1 group, made up of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, remained far from reaching a deal, saying that the two sides remained at loggerheads over certain issues, which had become "twisted."

Earlier, US Secretary of State John Kerry had held talks with Iran's Zarif, ahead of his meetings with Steinmeier and Fabius. The foreign ministers of Britain, China and Russia were also expected to arrive in Lausanne later on the weekend.

The two sides have set a target of reaching a preliminary deal by the end of March, designed to prevent Iran from using its nuclear program to build an atomic bomb in return for relaxed sanctions. If they meet the Tuesday deadline, the negotiators would immediately begin working to put together a comprehensive deal that they hope to have in place by the end of June.

pfd/sb (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)

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