Iran, world powers to continue n-talks


Two days of talks between six world powers and Iran over its nuclear program ended on Wednesday with specific agreement for further meetings in March and April over a proposal that would sharply constrain Iran's stockpile of the most dangerous enriched uranium in return for a modest lifting of some sanctions.

But the six powers — the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany — dropped their demand that Iran shut down its enrichment plant at Fordo instead insisting that Iran suspend enrichment work there and agree to unspecified conditions that would make it hard to quickly resume enrichment there. The six also agreed, in another apparent softening, that Iran could produce and keep a small amount of 20 per cent enriched uranium for use in a reactor to produce medical isotopes.

The two sides agreed that technical experts would meet to discuss the proposal on March 18 and 19 in Istanbul, while the negotiations at this higher political level will resume, again in Almaty, on April 5 and 6.

The chief Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili, called this meeting positive, asserting that the six powers had offered a revised proposal that was "more realistic" and "closer to the Iranian position." Jalili, whose news conference was notably short of the aggressive rhetoric he has used in the past, called the meeting "a turning point."

But senior Western diplomats were less enthusiastic, saying that Iran had not in fact responded to the proposal of the six and that real bargaining had not yet begun. A senior American official described the meeting as "useful" — refusing to call it positive — and emphasised that it was "concrete results" that counted, not atmospherics.

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