The P5+1 negotiations — the United Nations Security Council and Germany — were supposed to have finished a framework for the deal by midnight on Tuesday in Lausanne, Switzerland.
“We’ve made enough progress in the last days to merit staying until Wednesday. There are several difficult issues still remaining,” tweeted Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson for the State Department.
But senior Iranian negotiator Majid Takht-e Ravanchi said that no such extension had been agreed upon.
Iran insists that its nuclear program is solely for the civilian purposes of power generation and medical use.
Shai Tamari, associate director of the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations, said that the deal’s timing is a matter of contention.
“Iran wants all the sanctions lifted immediately rather than phased out, as the other parties are arguing for,” he said.
Iran is subject to six UN resolutions regarding its nuclear program. The economic sanctions in place slow development, but critics say they hurt Iranian citizens more than they influence Iranian policy.
The U.S. and Iran have some confluent interests in the region, but the relationship is complicated by Iran and Saudi Arabia’s mutual apathy and by Iranian hardliners’ frequent pronouncements against Israel and U.S. interests.
“Both the U.S. and Iran have an interest in reducing or eliminating ISIS’s influence in the Middle East, as apparent right now in Iraq, where they’re working — if not together, then definitely in some sort of coordination,” Tamari said.
North Carolina Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis both signed a controversial letter to Iran in March, informing the country’s leaders that Congress could force the Obama administration to renege on the deal.
But White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the letter was a partisan effort that undermined the U.S. government’s credibility worldwide.
Burr went on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday to raise concerns about the negotiations.
He cited the ongoing conflict in Yemen, where Iran supports Houthi rebels that a coalition of Arab countries are trying to suppress with the assistance of U.S. support.
“Is it really time to trust the people that we’re negotiating with, the Iranians?” he said.