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Iran's chief negotiator Abbas Araghchi outside Vienna's Grand Hotel, where the talks are being held. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty

Last week's round of indirect nuclear talks between the U.S. and Iran in Vienna was the first in which progress was made on both negotiating tracks, sanctions relief and nuclear measures, U.S. officials say.

Breaking it down: The working group focusing on sanctions relief required of the U.S. to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal had made steady progress in the first three rounds. But the other, focusing on the nuclear measures required of Iran, stalled due to Iran's hardline positions and the question of what happens to Iran's new advanced centrifuges, U.S. officials contend.

  • That led the Biden administration to make clear both privately and publicly that there would be no deal if Iran didn't roll back its nuclear program sufficiently to put its "breakout time" — the time needed to enrich enough uranium for a weapon — at least one year out.
  • But the U.S. side felt Iran showed more flexibility in the fourth round of talks and was reassured that Iran agreed to extend nuclear inspections for another month, avoiding a showdown that could have seriously damaged the chances of a deal.

Driving the news: Iran's chief negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, told reporters in Vienna on Tuesday that he hopes this will be the final round of talks before an agreement is reached. "You can have such hope, but you have to be a little bit cautious," he said.

  • A U.S. official told me a deal is achievable and shouldn't take months to reach, but it will require more nuclear concessions from Iran.
  • “The latest round of talks was constructive and saw meaningful progress. But much work still needs to be done," Rob Malley, who leads the U.S. delegation, tweeted before catching his flight to Vienna.

What to watch: Diplomats involved in the talks are bracing for a possible lull in negotiations ahead of the Iranian presidential elections on June 18.

  • The final list of candidates approved by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was published on Tuesday. Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, who is closer to the Reformist camp, was excluded, leaving conservative judiciary chief Ibrahim Raisi as the leading candidate.

Go deeper

Pacific Northwest soon to be ground zero for record-shattering heat

Computer model projection showing the unusually strong heat dome over the Pacific Northwest on Sunday. (PivotalWeather).

A heat wave is bringing unprecedented high temperatures to the Pacific Northwest — a region of the country typically cooled by the ocean, rather than central air conditioning. The heat will begin Friday and last into early next week.

Why it matters: The heat wave will shatter monthly and all-time temperature records in the Pacific Northwest. Some of the records could break the old milestones by several degrees.

At least one person killed, 99 missing after deadly Miami-area condo collapse

A massive search-and-rescue operation is underway after a portion of a 12-story residential building in Surfside, Florida, collapsed at approximately 1:30 a.m. Thursday, according to AP.

The latest: Officials have accounted for 102 people who lived in the high-rise Champlain Towers South, but 99 people remained unaccounted for by midafternoon, said Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County at a press conference Thursday afternoon.

Biden strikes infrastructure deal with bipartisan group of senators

President Biden announced Thursday that he had agreed to a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure plan with a bipartisan group of ten senators, declaring: "We have a deal."

Why it matters: The agreement on the size and scope of an infrastructure package is a major achievement for Biden, who has long been a proponent of bipartisanship, but the compromise still faces serious hurdles in the House and Senate.