Nuclear stalemate continues between Iran and world powers

Iran's representatives take part in talks with top officials from the United States, Britain, France, EU, China, Germany and Russia on Iran's nuclear programme in the Kazakh city of Almaty Credit: AFP/Getty Images
Iran’s representatives take part in talks with top officials from the United States, Britain, France, EU, China, Germany and Russia on Iran’s nuclear programme in the Kazakh city of Almaty
Credit: AFP/Getty Images

World powers and Iran failed again to ease their decade-old dispute over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program in talks that ended on Saturday, prolonging a stand-off that risks spiraling into a new Middle East war.

The lack of a breakthrough in the two-day meeting in Kazakhstan aimed at easing international concern over Iran’s contested nuclear activity marked a further setback for diplomatic efforts to resolve the row peacefully.

It is also likely to strengthen suspicions in Israel – which threatens air strikes, if necessary, to stop its arch-enemy from getting the bomb – that Iran is using diplomacy as a stalling tactic.

“Over two days of talks, we had long and intensive discussions,” European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.

“It became clear that our positions remain far apart,” Ashton, who represents the six powers – the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – in dealings with Iran, told a news conference.

Underlining the lack of substantial progress during the negotiations in the Kazakh commercial center of Almaty – the second meeting there this year – no new talks between the two sides were scheduled.

But a senior U.S. official said there had been no breakdown in the negotiations with Iran.

“There was no breakthrough but also no breakdown,” the official, who declined to be identified, said. “Our intention is to proceed,” he said, referring to a U.S. commitment to further diplomatic efforts.

Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili acknowledged differences between the two sides.

“We proposed our plan of action and the other party was not ready and they asked for some time to study the idea,” he told a separate news conference.

Russia’s negotiator sounded more upbeat, saying the talks were a “step forward” although no compromise had been reached.

“Certainly, these talks were a step forward,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said. But he added that it was premature to name a date and venue for further talks.

Iran’s critics accuse it of covertly seeking the means to produce nuclear bombs. Israel, widely believed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal, sees Iran’s nuclear program as a potential threat to its existence.

Iran says its nuclear energy program is entirely peaceful but U.N. inspectors suspect it has worked illicitly on designing a nuclear weapon.

KEEP DIPLOMACY ALIVE

With all sides aware that a breakdown in diplomacy could shunt the protracted stalemate a step closer to war, no one in Almaty was talking about abandoning diplomatic efforts.

Ashton said that for the first time there had been a “real back and forth between us when were able to discuss details, to pose questions, and to get answers directly … To that extent, that has been a very important element”

But, she added: “What matters in the end is substance.”

With a presidential election due in Iran in June, scope for a breakthrough was slim in Almaty. Iran declined to accept or reject an offer of modest relief from economic sanctions in exchange for curbing its most sensitive nuclear activity.

“I do not think the risk of war has substantially increased,” said Shashank Joshi, a senior fellow and Middle East specialist at the Royal United Services Institute,

“The priority for both sides is to keep the diplomatic track alive until after the Iranian presidential elections.”

But without substantial progress in coming months, Western governments are likely to increase economic sanctions on Iran.

The talks were held against a backdrop of flaring tension between big powers and North Korea, which like Iran is defying international demands to curb its nuclear program. [ID:nL3N0CT022] But unlike North Korea, which has carried out three nuclear tests since 2006, Iran says its nuclear energy activity is entirely peaceful.

The six powers tried to persuade Iran to abandon its higher-grade uranium enrichment, as a first step to a broader deal. Refined uranium can be used to power atomic reactors, Iran’s stated aim, or provide material for weapons if processed more.

Iran, which denies seeking nuclear weapons, wants major economic sanctions – including on its oil exports and banks – lifted and its right to enrich uranium publicly recognized.

“We regard enrichment as an inalienable right of the Iranian nation,” Jalili said.

The six nations, however, say this right only applies when nuclear work is carried out under extensive oversight by U.N. inspectors, something Iran has refused to grant. Since 2006, the U.N. Security Council has demanded that Iran suspend the work.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Sprint and T-Mobile offer further price discounts

Sprint unveiled a plan on Thursday that gives subscribers access to unlimited data for $60 a month, the industry's cheapest unlimited data offering.

National

Hundreds pay it forward at Florida Starbucks in…

The spontaneous chain of kindness continued for about 11 hours, totaling 457 transactions by the time it ended.

National

Weather system east of Caribbean could turn into…

An area of low pressure located east of the Caribbean Sea has a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm in the next 48 hours, U.S. forecasters…

National

U.S. hospital to discharge doctor treated with experimental…

An American doctor who contracted Ebola treating victims of the deadly virus in Liberia has recovered and will be discharged on Thursday by the Atlanta hospital that treated him with…

Movies

Review: 'When the Game Stands Tall' is both…

The high school football saga "When the Game Stands Tall" fumbles around for a focus while Jim Caviezel offers the most low-key coach in history.

Movies

Girlfriend in a coma: Chloe Grace Moretz

Chloe Grace Moretz is the best cheerleader "If I Stay" could ask for. As the star of the film adaptation of the successful YA novel…

The Word

The Word: Summer lovin' for Zac Efron and…

Ah, the summer romance. So intense, so fleeting. With Labor Day fast approaching, it should come as little surprise that the incredibly surprising romance between…

The Word

The Word: The Zac Efron-Michelle Rodriguez summer fling…

  Ah, the summer romance. So intense, so fleeting. With Labor Day fast approaching, it should come as little surprise that the incredibly surprising romance…

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Jets storylines to watch

Metro looks at three Jets storylines to watch as they play the Giants Friday.

NFL

Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Tech

Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…