The U.S. and other world powers will continue negotiating with Iran through Wednesday in an attempt to nail down a framework deal that would shut off Iran's ability to build a nuclear weapon, according to news reports.
An extension past the March 31 deadline for reaching that agreement was hinted at later in the day, by officials who said a short extension could happen if it helps finalize a deal. "They will continue conversations tomorrow if conversations continue to be productive, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday.
By mid-afternoon Tuesday in the United States, reports came out that the talks would, in fact, continue.
"We've made enough progress in the last days to merit staying until Wednesday," Acting State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told CNN. "There are several difficult issues still remaining."
The P5+1 negotiating group has struggled to reach a deal that would cut off Iran's access to a nuclear bomb for the next 15 years, and one that would meet Iran's demand to ease sanctions. Various press reports have said several outstanding issues remain, including how far Iran could advance its nuclear program during the last phase of the agreement, how quickly United Nations sanctions would be phased out, and which of those sanctions would be permanently removed.
On Monday, Harf added that another outstanding issue is what to do with the stockpile of nuclear material that Iran already has.
While a short extension of the talks suddenly became likely on Tuesday, it's possible the talks could be extended for a bit more. The U.S. and other countries involved in the talks have stressed that they wanted to stick to the March 31 deadline, but admitted that his deadline was meant to be an action-forcing event, and was not one that had to be held firm for any other reason.
Any dramatic extension, however, could become difficult for countries in the talks, and the United States in particular. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have said they would start work on a bill requiring Congress to approve any deal that's reached, something the Obama administration opposes, by mid-April.
Efforts might also grow in Congress to pass legislation imposing immediate sanctions against Iran. Republicans have said the administration should have no leeway on this if a framework deal isn't struck by today.
When asked Sunday how quickly Congress would move on a sanctions bill, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, "very."
However, Congress is out this week and next, which means it's not in a position to do anything until mid-April.