Iran nuclear: Ashton says positions 'still far apart'

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton emerges from talks in Almaty, 6 April Baroness Ashton said positions were "far apart"

Talks between world powers and Iran on its nuclear programme have ended without agreement, with the EU saying their positions "remain far apart".

Over two days of talks in Almaty, Iran was asked to give up work on its most sensitive nuclear activities in return for an easing of sanctions.

Iran said it was up to the world powers to demonstrate willingness to take confidence-building steps.

World powers suspect Iran of a covert nuclear weapons programme.

Tehran, which insists its intentions are peaceful, is negotiating with the so-called P5+1 group comprising the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the US, Russia, China, the UK and France - plus Germany.

'No breakthrough'

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton confirmed no deal was reached.

"A robust and detailed back-and-forth on specific elements" is how a senior US official described 48 hours in Almaty.

"Some good negotiations," were the words used by Iran's Chief Negotiator Saeed Jalili.

By all accounts, there was more talking in the talks than in the past decade of tortuous negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme.

But it's underlined how wide the gaps are, how deep the mistrust is, how far they still have to go to achieve a negotiated solution.

And time is not on anyone's side. Both sides are under pressure to prove talks are not failing. But there was no agreement, not even on a date to meet again, although consultations and telephone calls are in the diaries.

Both sides believe the other is still asking for too much, for too little in return. Both believe the ball is in the other's court. But the onus still lies on Iran to prove its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful, lest calls for military action grow ever louder.

"It became clear that the positions... remain far apart on the substance," she told reporters on Saturday.

"We have therefore agreed that all sides will go back to [their] capitals to evaluate where we stand in the process," she added.

"I think the first hurdle is take the proposal that we put on the table and get a real response to all of it... The challenge is to get real engagement so that we can move forward with this."

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov confirmed there had been a "lack of results".

"Unfortunately we were unable to achieve a breakthrough and are still on the threshold," he was quoted as saying by Russia's Interfax news agency.

According to AFP news agency, he also said no time or place for the next talks had yet been agreed.

Tehran's chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency: "We proposed our plan of action and the other party was not ready and they asked for some time to study the idea."

At a previous round of talks in Kazakhstan in February, the P5+1 tried to push Tehran to halt production and stockpiling of uranium enriched to 20%.

The P5+1 also demanded Iran shut down the Fordo underground enrichment facility.

In return, the world powers suggested easing tough economic sanctions imposed on Iran in response to its nuclear programme.

Iran's economy has been squeezed, with oil revenue slashed, the currency nose-diving in value and unemployment growing.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    How typical, whenever a subject like this comes up on these pages it immediately descends into a slanging match, those who blame all the worlds ills on the western democracies and would arm every rogue state with nuclear weapons and the idiots who scream for immediate bombing of whichever state is in the hot seat. It would be pleasant to have a reasoned discussion for a change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Iran is playing a high stakes game of poker, and keep raising the ante ... they will have to be careful their is not called. Using nuclear weapons/WMDs to gain political advantage is a dangerous game. It can justify invasion and bombings and alienates you from your neighbours. Lets all hope N Korea and Iran know when to fold.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Let us hope that the negotiations with Iran are a success. having said that, it may be naive of me but I believe we have to stop applying double standards to our international relationships. We have relationships with quite odious regimes, where our relationship depends on us turning a blind eye to serious human rights violations and applying such a hypocritical approach does us no good


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