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U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns addresses a news conference in Tunis February 1, 2014. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi(reuters_tickers)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senior U.S. and Iranian officials will hold nuclear talks in Geneva on Thursday, the U.S. State Department said, as the two sides seek to break a logjam over Tehran's atomic programme.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns will lead the U.S. delegation, which will include Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, the State Department said in a statement.
The United States and some of its allies suspect Iran is using its civilian nuclear programme as a cover to develop atomic weapons. Iran denies this, saying that its programme is solely for peaceful purposes.
Six major powers and Iran failed to meet a July 20 deadline to negotiate a comprehensive agreement under which Iran would curb its nuclear activities in exchange for the easing of economic sanctions that have crippled its economy.
The six, a group comprised of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States known as the P5+1, have agreed to extend the deadline to reach a comprehensive agreement until Nov. 24.
The State Department provided few details on Thursday's talks beyond a list of U.S. officials who would attend.
"These bilateral consultations will take place in the context of the P5+1 nuclear negotiations led by EU High Representative Cathy Ashton," the statement said.
Two of the three key U.S. officials involved in the talks are expected to leave the Obama administration this year.
Burns, who led secret negotiations between Iran and the United States that helped yield a November interim nuclear agreement with Tehran, plans to retire in October.
Sullivan, who also took part in the secret negotiations, plans to join Yale University's law school as a lecturer and to serve as a senior fellow at Yale's Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, the university said on its website.
It is unclear if either would play any role in the talks after they leave the administration.
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Paul Tait)