Tense talks start on Iran nuclear program

After a near breakdown in talks, European Union representatives say they are willing to persist with talks on Iran’s nuclear program for two more days.


The Moscow talks between Iran and six key nations saw little movement on their first day, with both sides unwilling to budge. The clash almost prematurely ended the first of two scheduled days of negotiations, according to participants.

But later Monday, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the talks might now last to Wednesday, according to Russian news agencies.

“The negotiations are hard, but they are continuing,” said the spokesman.

If nothing else, the talks now seemed set to at least continue through Tuesday, as originally planned. Iranian sources said Ashton had requested a break until midday on Tuesday.

One sticking point was the European Union’s refusal to countenance an end to sanctions on Iranian oil, as demanded by Iran.

The import ban on Iranian oil would come into effect on July 1 as planned, said a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who leads the six-power group made up of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

Iran also stuck to its positions, with its chief negotiator Saeid Jalili demanding that the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany formally recognise its right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.

But Ashton’s spokesman Michael Mann made clear that the world powers want Iran to stop enriching uranium to a level of 20 per cent.

While Iran says it needs this materials to fuel a scientific reactor in Tehran, the group of six fears that this enriched material might one day be processed further into nuclear weapons.

The powers also want Iran to let the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigate alleged nuclear weapons and research projects, but Tehran’s representatives said this would be possible only if sanctions were lifted.

The EU did not expect the sanctions issue to be solved in Moscow, according to Mann.

Participants said that the atmosphere on Monday was “not positive”.

Iran started the Moscow round by criticising Ashton and her group for making little effort to engage with Tehran and prepare for the current talks.

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