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World powers struggle for nuclear agreement with Iran

Iran and world powers are struggling to reach an agreement over the country's nuclear program. Officials have acknowledged that the talks are constructive, but significant differences remain.

Catherine Ashton, the European Union's top diplomat, met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Geneva on Thursday for a second day of talks to discuss a draft plan to end the long dispute over the country's nuclear program.

Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US - the P5+1 nations - want Iran to curb, or stop altogether parts of its nuclear program, in exchanging for easing some sanctions that have crippled its economy.

Zarif said the two sides were working through the "details and wording" of the deal. Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said that "differences of views" remain with world powers in the negotiations, but told Iran's IRNA news agency that after follow-up talks with Ashton, who heads the P5+1 delegation, "we regained some of our lost trust."

Disputed nuclear program

Many countries have accused Iran of using its atomic program to develop a nuclear weapon. Tehran has consistently rejected those claims, saying its program is for peaceful, scientific purposes.

Iranian leaders have indicated willingness to compromise on the issue, but have also insisted that their country would not consider giving up its ability to make nuclear fuel. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has voiced his support for the ongoing negotiations, but said Iran's willingness to compromise has limits and there is still much work ahead.

The proposed agreement would suspend Iran's uranium enrichment to 20 percent purity, which is close to weapons-grade. It also calls for the removal of uranium stockpiles and tighter UN inspections. In return, some long-frozen Iranian funds would be released, trade in precious metals would be permitted and the US would relax its restrictions on other countries buying Iranian oil, as well as other measures.

France has taken a somewhat tougher line than its fellow world powers. In the previous negotiations two weeks ago, Paris called for stronger curbs on a planned plutonium-producing reactor in Arak. The demand was one of the reasons no agreement was reached.

Israel, widely believed to be the only nation in the Middle East with a nuclear arsenal, has complained that the deal doesn't go far enough and has refused to rule out military action. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly called for the complete and permanent dismantling of Iran's nuclear facilities, not just the ones enriching to 20 percent.

dr/ccp (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)