Powers and Iran remain far apart after Almaty talks

World powers and Iran remain far apart despite two days of intensive talks over Tehran's nuclear programme, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said after the negotiations ended on Saturday.


"Over two days of talks we had long and intensive discussions on the issues addressed in our confidence-building prospal," Ashton told a news conference in the Kazakh city of Almaty, where the negotiations took place.


"It became clear that our positions remain far apart," she said.


Iran's chief nuclear negotiator said there was some distance between the positions of Tehran and world powers but its disputed uranium enrichment could be a subject for confidence-building cooperation.


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Saeed Jalili spoke after two days of talks in the Kazakh city of Almaty failed to achieve substantive progress in the decade-old dispute over Iran's nuclear programme.


"We proposed our plan of action and the other party was not ready and they asked for some time to study the idea," Jalili told a news conference. He said was now up to the powers to demonstrate willingness to take confidence-building steps.  


He added that Iran has inalienable right to enrich uranium, either to 5 percent or to 20 percent.


The six insist Iran cut back on its highest grade uranium enrichment production and stockpile, fearing Tehran will divert it from making nuclear fuel to form the material used in the core of nuclear warhead. They say Iran must make that move - and make it first - to build confidence that its nuclear program is peaceful.  


They were asking Tehran to greatly limit its production and stockpiling of uranium enriched to 20 percent, which is just a technical step away from weapons-grade uranium. That would keep Iran's supply below the amount needed for further processing into a weapon.  


But Iran wants greater rewards for any concessions that the six are ready to give. They have offered to lift sanctions on Iran's gold transactions and petrochemical trade. But Tehran wants much more substantial sanctions relief. It seeks an end to international penalties crippling its oil trade and financial transactions. 


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