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Iran nuclear talks yield only one agreement: Let's meet again

Absent from the five marathon sessions in Moscow over Iran's nuclear program were any new incentives, from either side, to signal that compromise is imminent or even possible.

By Staff writer / June 20, 2012

Chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili speaks to the media after talks on the controversial Iranian nuclear program in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, June 19.

Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

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Moscow

Iran and world powers have agreed to continue negotiations at a technical level over Iran's nuclear program, staving off a collapse of talks after two days of difficult discussions in Moscow, where hard-line positions did not budge.

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Both sides portrayed the other as having a "choice" to pursue diplomacy and avert a war over Iran's advanced nuclear program. Israel and some Western governments believe the program aims to produce nuclear weapons, a charge that Iran denies.

Diplomats on both sides used similar language to describe "significant gaps" that remain, and to question how long this process of talks can be sustained. Absent from the five marathon sessions in Moscow were any new incentives, from either side, to signal that compromise is imminent or even possible.

The P5+1 group (the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany) held fast to its demands that Iran stop its most sensitive uranium enrichment work, close a deeply buried facility, and ship out its stockpile of 20 percent enriched material. Iran also had to accept "full implementation" of UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions, which require total suspension of enrichment – and which Iran rejects.

Likewise, Iran held fast to its demand that the P5+1 recognize its "inalienable right" to enrich uranium "at all levels," and to remove increasingly severe sanctions that are damaging its economy.

The two sides late last night agreed to hold a technical meeting July 3 in Istanbul, Turkey, to better "understand" and "study" each other's positions. This is to be followed by contact between political deputies, and finally direct contact between chief negotiators Catherine Ashton for the P5+1 and Saeed Jalili for Iran about a possible next meeting. 

No breakthrough initiatives

But, aside from far more detailed explanations of positions, there was little evidence of new flexibility.

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