| VIENNA, July 5
VIENNA, July 5 Anyone who says it's all work and
no play for the hordes of diplomats, officials, security agents,
analysts and reporters who have descended on Vienna for what
should be the finale of almost two years of Iran nuclear talks
is dead wrong. As the manager of a local brothel said, when the
Iran talks are in town, "business is booming".
He declined to say who were his most frequent customers, but
made clear that, as far as he was concerned, the longer the
negotiations between Iran and six world powers drag on, the
Some journalists are also pleased that this round of talks
is in Vienna; when the last ministerial round, in March, was
held in Lausanne, in notoriously expensive Switzerland, an
Iranian reporter complained that he was having trouble affording
Brothels are legal in Austria - so much so that last month
an Austrian night club announced it was offering customers free
sex in a summer-long protest over what its owner described as
punitive tax rates.
TOO MUCH 'THIRD MAN'?
Vienna's Palais Coburg hotel, a 19th-century palace, has
hosted most rounds of the talks since February 2014, and for all
that time rumours have circulated about a network of underground
tunnels connecting it to brothels and other establishments.
One Western diplomat said they could be just Iran-talks
folklore inspired by Carol Reed's classic 1949 film noir "The
Third Man", which features a chase scene through Vienna's sewer
Some negotiators opt for a different kind of leisure
activity anyway. One took a day off from haggling over uranium
centrifuges and the legal technicalities of U.N. inspections to
cycle 70 km along the Danube River - seemingly undeterred by the
bicycle crash that put U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on
crutches in May, the day after a nuclear meeting with Iran's
foreign minister in Geneva.
Other diplomats shed their business attire and enjoyed a
splash in the public pools.
But their impatience is clear. "These talks have become
obsessional," said one. "I'd quite like to do something else
now. It's enough to make you go crazy."
Like the food, for instance. Luxury hotel or not, after 10
days of the same lunch buffet, its starts to get repetitive; the
Iranian delegation has taken to bringing in main courses from a
local Persian restaurant.
ACHTUNG! ICE CREAM
The talks were supposed to finish by June 30 but, days
before the deadline, one delegation were already joking in a
beer garden in Vienna's "Stadtpark" about "Groundhog Day", the
1993 film about a man who relives the same day over and over
again. Sure enough, the talks were extended by another week.
With energy needing to be saved for the long haul, the
closest local DIY and garden store rapidly sold out of folding
picnic chairs, which have become essential equipment for
reporters staking out the talks.
As daytime temperatures have soared towards 40 Celsius (104
Fahrenheit), keeping cool can be difficult.
Many television crews and photographers and a few
correspondents are decked out in shorts and t-shirts and, in an
attempt to cool the tempers of grumpy reporters, has Austrian
Foreign Ministry has been supplying free ice cream.
At least once a day, a ministry employee wheels a cart full
of lollies and cones into the media tent, calling out "Achtung,
attention please!" to get the journalists with their laptops to
clear a space - before the predictable scrum empties the cart of
all but a few unpopular varieties.
"YOU'RE AN IDIOT!"
But that's still not enough to get some of the reporters
through their day.
"I've run out of words," said a French-language reporter. "I
used my last ounce of strength to do a story this morning. How
many different ways can you say 'inched towards a deal'?"
For an Italian journalist in the tent, where temperatures
soared above 40 Celsius after the air conditioning broke down,
it was all too much.
"You're an idiot!" he screamed down the phone to his editor,
"A moron! A moron! A moron!" And then he hung up.
One local reporter suggested to his foreign minister that
keeping foreign correspondents cooped up in a stifling tent
might be encouraging them to send home the wrong message about
The minister, fresh-faced 28-year-old Sebastian Kurz, took
the warning to heart and invited foreign reporters to Sunday
brunch at his ministry, rather improbably making peace among
nations in the process.
Iranian reporters came along - even though some of them were
unable to enjoy the Viennese pastries because they were fasting
for the holy month of Ramadan - and quickly found themselves
rubbing shoulders with Israeli journalists, abandoning their
usual reciprocal frostiness in the rush to get a "selfie" with
(Additional reporting by Shadia Nasralla and Arshad Mohammed;
Writing by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Kevin Liffey)