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Chief negotiator 'disappointed' as Iran nuclear talks break down

Talks to address concerns about Iran's nuclear program have ended in disappointment for EU foreign affairs representative and chief negotiator, Catherine Ashton. No new talks have been scheduled.

An empty meeting table

Some observers had feared talks would break down

Talks to address concerns about Iran's nuclear program ended Saturday in Istanbul without any significant progress and no new talks on the horizon.

After the conclusion of the two-day crunch meeting of the UN Security Council permanent members plus Germany, chief negotiator and the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, told reporters, "I am disappointed."

She added that "no new talks have been planned," between the world powers and Tehran on the Islamic Republic's controversial nuclear drive.

"It remains essential that Iran demonstrates that its nuclear program is peaceful," she said.

The negotiations apparently stumbled over a dispute about the focus of future talks.

Western concerns

Talks in Istanbul were the latest round of negotiations after a 14-month gap in diplomatic efforts to find a solution to Western concerns about Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Although opposing sides clung to established positions, prompting fears that talks would collapse from the outset, Iran had agreed to a second day of negotiations.

Tehran, however, said it would not discuss the sensitive issue of uranium enrichment.

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeid Jalili

Ashton and Jalili discussed a revised fuel swap deal

"We will not allow any talks linked to freezing or suspending Iran's enrichment activities to be discussed at the meeting in Istanbul," diplomatic aide Abolfazl Zohrevand told reporters following talks on Friday evening.

International effort

Chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili met separately with Ashton and representatives from Russia and China, before the open session on Friday night.

Talks between the six powers and Iran resumed in Geneva last month after a breakdown in negotiations of more than a year.

During her meeting with Jalili, Ashton outlined a possible revised offer for a nuclear fuel exchange deal, with Iran relinquishing stockpiles of low-enriched uranium.

Diplomatic sources, however, said that no offer was made because of Iran's insistence that current economic sanctions against it be lifted before any further progress was made.

Tehran insists its atomic energy program is peaceful and that it has a right to enrich uranium to power its nuclear reactors. While uranium enriched to a low degree is legitimately used in energy production, material refined to a very high level can be used to form the fissile core of a nuclear bomb.

Iran has ignored Security Council resolutions calling for it to stop enrichment and it has refused unrestricted access to UN nuclear inspectors.

Author: Richard Connor, Joanna Impey (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Toma Tasovac

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