Two days of talks in Baghdad between Iran and the six world powers on the Islamic Republic's disputed nuclear program ended without any breakthroughs on Thursday. Nevertheless, it was agreed to hold fresh negotiations on the issue in Moscow on June 18-19.
The talks began in the Iraqi capital on Wednesday, but extended to Thursday after Iran rejected proposals put forward by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany for persuading Tehran to roll back its uranium enrichment work. While EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton led the P5+1 nations at the talks, the Iranian side was headed by its chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.
The offer put forward by the P5+1 nations reportedly combined new and old proposals aimed at persuading Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment program in exchange for concessions. Iran's participation in the talks was mainly for convincing the P5+1 nations to lift their individual as well as U.N. sanctions currently imposed on Tehran over its disputed nuclear program.
The P5+1 nations are said to have offered to supply medical isotopes and provide co-operation on nuclear safety to Iran if it halted its 20 percent uranium enrichment program. Nevertheless, Iran is said to have rejected the offer, insisting that uranium enrichment is its non-negotiable right.
The P5+1 group wants Iran to halt enriching uranium to 20 percent level, which can be used for making nuclear weapons, and allow U.N. nuclear inspectors to verify the so-claimed peaceful intentions of the Islamic Republic's disputed nuclear activity.
Iranian news agencies quoted government officials as describing the offer as "nitpicking" and the package as "not balanced." They also said without providing details that Tehran's representatives had presented their own five-point package of proposals on "nuclear and non-nuclear issues" to the other participating nations.
After Thursday's talks, Ashton acknowledged that "significant differences" remained between the two sides. She, however, stressed that some common grounds have been found during the Baghdad negotiations.
"Having held in-depth discussions with our Iranian counterparts over two days - both in full plenary
sessions and bilaterals - it is clear that we both want to make progress, and that there is some common ground. However, significant differences remain. Nonetheless, we do agree on the need for further discussion to expand that common ground," Ashton said.
She said the P5+1 group remained firm, clear and united during the negotiations in "seeking a swift diplomatic resolution of the international community's concerns on the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program, based on the NPT, and the full implementation of U.N. Security Council and IAEA Board of Governors Resolutions."
"We also put ideas on the table on reciprocal steps we would be prepared to take. Iran declared its readiness to address the issue of 20 percent enrichment and came with its own five-point plan, including their assertion that we recognize their right to enrichment," she added.
Iran had earlier held a round of negotiations with the six world powers -- the U.S., UK, France, Russia, China and Germany in the Turkish city of Istanbul in April. During those talks, the participants agreed to tackle the issue through step-by-step negotiations and by responding to the progress made by initiating reciprocity actions.
Iran insists that its nuclear activity is intended for peaceful civilian purposes, but the West suspects the claim to be a cover up for the country's nuclear weapon ambitions. Nevertheless, Tehran argues that it has the right to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes as it is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Iran has already survived four sets of sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council following its refusal to halt uranium enrichment. Analysts believe that Russia and China, both Iranian allies, are unlikely to support further U.N. sanctions against Tehran over the issue.
However, the United States and its allies, including the European Union, have imposed separate sanctions on Iran after a report released by the IAEA in November that cautioned Iran may be planning to develop nuclear weapons.
by RTT Staff Writer
For comments and feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org