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New round of Iran nuclear talks to be held in Geneva

US officials say negotiating team headed to Switzerland on Thursday in hopes of establishing framework agreement by 31 March.
Iran and the so-called P5+1 group are trying to pin down a deal that would put back Iran's ability to develop an atomic bomb in exchange for easing crippling international sanctions on the country.

WASHINGTON - US officials said Wednesday that negotiators would be meeting their Iranian counterparts in Geneva for a new round of nuclear talks in the coming days.

Chief negotiator Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and her team will travel to Switzerland on Thursday, the State Department said.

Iran and the so-called P5+1 group - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US - are trying to pin down a complex deal that would put back Iran's ability to develop an atomic bomb in exchange for easing crippling international sanctions.

"These bilateral consultations will take place in the context of the P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran," the State Department said in a statement, adding that EU deputy foreign policy chief Helga Schmid would also join the talks.

Two deadlines for a permanent agreement have already been missed since a November 2013 interim deal.

Negotiators are now working toward reaching a political framework by 31 March, with the final technical details to be laid out in a comprehensive accord by 30 June.

It was not immediately clear who would meet with Sherman in Geneva, but in the past she has huddled with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The Iranian minister has also met multiple times with top US diplomat John Kerry, mostly in European capitals.

Their last face-to-face was in Munich earlier in February, when they met twice on different days on the sidelines of a global security conference. 

Both officials stressed that they were focused on the 31 March deadline and appeared to rule out any further extensions.

US not sharing all details with Israel

Also Wednesday, the State Department and White House said they were withholding certain details of the talks from Israel.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US did not share "everything" with Israel regarding the nuclear talks, the Anadolu Agency reported.

“Not everything you're hearing from the Israeli government is an accurate reflection of the details of the talks," Psaki said.

Meanwhile, the White House said it felt Israeli officials had attempted to sabotage the talks using shared information in the past.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Israel had been guilty of “cherry-picking specific pieces of information and using them out of context to distort the negotiating position of the United States".

Netanyahu has angered the Obama administration by openly opposing the Iran nuclear talks, saying they “threaten the existence” of the state of Israel.

The Israeli president has accepted an invitation from Republicans in Congress to speak against the nuclear deal, a move widely seen as a breach of diplomatic protocol.

Western powers accuse Iran of seeking to develop a nuclear weapon - a charge Tehran denies.

Disagreements in the talks centre on the extent of nuclear activities Iran will be allowed to continue and the timetable for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Tehran over its nuclear efforts.