President Obama said he may stretch nuclear talks with Iran beyond a six-month period ending on Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The White House informed Congress on Wednesday of the possible move, setting the stage for a potential clash with lawmakers over the likelihood of extended negotiations to yield any solution to a long-running standoff on the Middle Eastern nation's nuclear program. The United States has joined five other nations -- China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom -- in offering to lift international sanctions on Iran if the country dials back atomic efforts capable of supporting arms development.
"It is clear to me that we have made real progress in several areas and that we have a credible way forward," Obama said. "But as we approach a deadline of July 20 under the interim deal, there are still some significant gaps between the international community and Iran, and we have more work to do."
The White House would maintain communication with Congress to "determine whether additional time is necessary to extend our negotiations," he said.
Iran and the other negotiating countries have an option to extend a half-year atomic deal implemented in January, and U.S. legislators may differ with Obama's administration over the duration and conditions of any renewal, according to the Journal.
"If it's weeks, I think most people are going to see the goal is worth that," Senator Angus King (I-Maine) said. "If it's months, I think that's going to be a more difficult sell."
Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Obama officials must provide "a full assessment about how close the gap is" in the negotiations. "Are we really in striking range?"
Meanwhile, diplomatic insiders said Iran appears to have launched a system at its Isfahan facility to convert low-enriched uranium gas to a solid form that cannot readily be purified into bomb material, Reuters reported on Wednesday.