A senior American official told Israeli journalists in a press briefing on Sunday that world powers are "not in a rush" to sign a deal with Iran on its nuclear program.
The official, who was quoted by several outlets including Haaretz, also stressed that a deal with Iran would last for “longer than a decade”.
The senior official stressed that while Washington is looking to meet the goal of reaching an understanding with Iran by March 31, “we want to get the right deal and not be under pressure of time.”
“We are able to get a deal that will be way longer than a decade," said the official, adding, "We are not talking about a 10 year agreement – but about several phases that will continue indefinitely to know that Iran's program is peaceful."
The official clarified that even after the agreement expires, Iran would not be free to do as it wishes with regard to its nuclear program. Iran would still be required to uphold the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which it is a signatory, and strict supervision agreements that is has yet to sign, the official said, according to Haaretz.
"We want a long term solution and we are aware of the concerns regarding what happens the day after the agreement is finished," the official said. "We expect several phases of any deal – a term with big limitations for a long time and then another phase with limitations and verification for a long period of time. And then Iran will be an NPT country and will have to apply the additional protocol and uphold the same commitments any other country has."
The official stressed that if Iran were to try to develop nuclear weapons after the deal expires, the U.S. would be able to impose additional sanctions or even to use military force against it.
"We are worried about what they might do covertly," the official was quoted as having said. "We need limitations and monitoring that will give us visibility into their program, the kind of limitations that will continue for a considerable period of time."
The comments come as talks continue between Iran and the six world powers, known as the P5+1, in an attempt to turn an interim 2013 deal into a permanent agreement.
Under the interim deal, Iran committed to limit its uranium enrichment to five percent and is gradually winning access to $4.2 billion of its oil revenues frozen abroad and some other sanctions relief.
Talks to reach a permanent deal have continuously stalled and two deadlines for a final deal have been missed, with a third one looming.
The official’s comments came hours after President Barack Obama similarly stated that the United States would "walk away" from the talks with Iran over its nuclear program if the deal is not good enough.
Any agreement must allow the U.S. and other powers to verify that Iran does not obtain an atomic weapon, and that even if Iran "cheated," the U.S. and others would have "enough time to take action," and "if we don't have that kind of deal, then we're not going to take it," he told CBS News.
"If we cannot verify that they are not going to obtain a nuclear weapon, that there's a breakout period so that even if they cheated we would be able to have enough time to take action – if we don't have that kind of deal, then we're not going to take it," he said.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly warned against a bad nuclear deal with Iran, a fact which has put him at odds with the Obama administration.
Netanyahu reiterated his warnings in his speech before Congress last week. On Sunday, he said that a “right agreement” with Iran “is one that links between the lifting of the restrictions on Iran's nuclear program and the cessation of Iran's terrorist actions around the world and, of course, its threats to annihilate Israel."
"The right agreement is one that extends by years Iran's break-out time to achieve a bomb, given the feasibility of violating the agreement," Netanyahu added.
"As of now, the deal being formulated between Iran and the major powers will allow Iran a break-out time of one year or less," Netanyahu predicted. "This assessment is based on the State of Israel's professional intelligence elements, which delivered this assessment to the major powers."