A senior Obama administration official said Monday that it's quite possible the Iran nuclear talks could be extended beyond the July 7 deadline, and indicated a few times that Iran may indeed be pushing for a deal that is outside what the U.S. considers to be the parameters of an agreement reached in April in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The unnamed official talked to reporters in Vienna, Austria, as the talks continued, and was asked several times whether another extension was possible.
"So I mean, is it conceivable that we would go past the 7th?" the official finally replied, according to a transcript provided by the State Department. "Sure, it's conceivable."
The official stressed that the U.S. wants to get the deal done "as soon as possible."
The official also said that the closer the deal matches the Lausanne framework, the more likely it is that both sides will reach a deal. But that only seemed to imply that Iran is looking to find a way out of some portion of that framework.
"If things hew closely to Lausanne and we meet our bottom lines, which you're all pretty familiar with at this point, then we can get a deal," the official said. "And if the right choices don't get a made and a good deal is not available, then we won't and we're more than comfortable stepping away at that point if need be."
"So the closer this hews to Lausanne, the more likely we are I think to get a deal, and a deal that we can proudly and confidently defend," the official added.
But when asked explicitly if that meant Iran was looking for wiggle room, the official seemed to say that the parameters from early April may be so unclear, that there could be different ways each country is trying to comply with those parameters.
"[W]e will live by Lausanne," the official said. "The Iranians have said they'll live by Lausanne. But I guess what I would say is within the category of 'living by Lausanne,' there's still a lot that needs to be figured out in terms of how it all works and what words appear on the page to describe those concepts."
Back in Washington, State Department spokesman John Kirby declined several times to talk about the substance or timing of any deal.
"I'm not going to speculate about what's going to happen tomorrow. What the secretary is focused on is what's going in the negotiating room today," he said.
"Tomorrow, you know, we'll see where we are, and if have to have, you know, another conversation about that, we will," he added. "I'm not going to speculate."