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Kerry, Iranian Official Continue Discussions on Interim Deal

By Jordain Carney

National Journal

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with his Iranian counterpart in search of a path forward on the interim nuclear deal reached last month.

A senior State Department official said on Monday that the weekend conversation focused on "the importance of moving forward" on the agreement reached in Geneva and "maintaining a constructive atmosphere as the negotiations continue."

The talks -- which took place during Kerry's flight to Vietnam -- follow the administration's announcement last week that it was targeting more than a dozen individuals and companies for allegedly violating the sanctions against Iran. The decision bars the designees from engaging in transactions with U.S. individuals and allows the United States to freeze any assets currently under its jurisdiction, as well as any that fall into its control in the future.

Zarif told the Washington Post that despite reports to the contrary, the new designations did not end the negotiations between Iran, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China over Iran's nuclear program.

"As Mark Twain rightly pointed out, the news of their demise is greatly exaggerated," he said. "I believe we need to have a reassessment of how we want to proceed -- everybody needs to do that -- go back to the negotiating table with a view to removing these obstacles and moving forward."

He added that he has also been in contact with officials from other countries involved with the negotiations, as well as Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, on how to move forward.

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