International powers have resumed talks with Iran about its nuclear program. The meeting is being seen as a make-or-break occasion, amid fears of a widening conflict involving Israel.
World powers were on Monday hoping to win concessions from Tehran over its nuclear program, amid fears that a failure in talks could lead to a possible war in the Middle East.
Six powers - permanent Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, as well as Germany - were set to press Iran to halt its program of enriching to 20 percent fissile material.
Such refining of the process would make the production of weapons-grade material more possible, although Iran denies its program has a military application.
The conference is taking place in Russia, with Moscow expressing optimism that progress could be made.
"There are reasons to believe that the next step will be taken in Moscow," Russia's Deputy Foreign Sergei Ryabkov said.
A failure of the negotiations could raise the specter of air raids against Iran from Israel, which has said it may attack the Islamic Republic's nuclear installations if diplomatic channels fail.
The fear is that such a conflict would widen within the region and bring in outside parties such as the US.
'No talks for talks' sake'
The talks were being led by EU foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton. "Ashton is willing to stay in Moscow as long as it takes," one diplomat told the news agency Reuters. But he warned: "We will have to say 'no' to talks for talks' sake."
Talks have been volatile, with Iran threatening to walk out at the last set of negotiations in Iraq in May.
A major sticking point is Iran’s insistence that it should have the right to enhance uranium for what it claims are peaceful purposes.
Enrichment of uranium to make it 20 percent "fissile" - capable of sustaining a chain reaction - is viewed as indicative of Tehran overcoming key technical hurdles in manufacturing 90 percent weapons-grade material.
Iran claims to be enhancing fissile purity to a level necessary for medical research and has repeatedly ruled out suspending its enrichment program in accordance with several UN Security Council resolutions.
rc/mr (AFP, Reuters)