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Russian, Chinese foreign ministers skip Iran nuclear talks, dent hopes of deal

VIENNA (AP) - The foreign ministers of Russia and China are skipping talks on Iran's nuclear program this weekend. That's putting a dent in expectations that the stalled negotiations will produce a deal by July 20.

Secretary of State John Kerry and the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany are in Vienna, and the State Department is putting on a good face on the situation. It says the six powers talking with Iran are, as always, "united in the negotiating room."

The most important disputes over how deeply Iran must cut its nuclear program to gain sanctions relief are between Washington and Tehran, so Kerry's presence is important. He will be able to talk directly to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is already at the Vienna negotiations.

Diplomats familiar with the talks say Moscow shares Washington's desire for a deal. But while the U.S. wants deep cuts in Iranian programs that could be used to make nuclear arms, Russia would settle for pervasive monitoring, they say.

Former U.S. State Department official Mark Fitzpatrick says the Russian absence might simply indicate that Moscow doesn't anticipate agreement by July 20.


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