Iran nuclear talks fail to make headway

Iran nuclear talks fail to make headway

US may press for imposing more sanctions on Islamic Republic

Two days of seemingly fruitless discussions in Istanbul between Iran and the six US, France, Germany, China, Russia and Britain—ended on Saturday without even an agreement on when and where to meet again.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the door remained open but the outcome was clearly disappointing, even if no one had expected a breakthrough in the Turkish city.

Western officials had hoped for signs that Iran would be willing to start addressing their concerns about its nuclear programme, which they fear is aimed at making bombs but Tehran says is designed for peaceful power generation.

But the Iranian delegation made clear from the outset that the country’s “nuclear rights” were not negotiable.

Ashton, who led the big powers’ delegation, said no new meeting was planned for now. An Iranian official said the talks would resume, but that no date or venue had yet been set.

In the previous session between the two sides in Geneva in early December, which also made no concrete headway in easing the standoff, there was at least an agreement to have another meeting in Istanbul at the end of January.

The Istanbul talks underlined the wide divide and how increasingly tough sanctions on Iran, a major oil producer, have so far had little effect in persuading the Islamic state to change course.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised the possibility earlier this week of further increasing such pressure, telling US network ABC that the Obama administration may propose new unilateral measures against Iran.

But some analysts say it is unlikely that the US-led drive to isolate Iran and its hardline leaders, who use the nuclear programme to rally nationalist support at home, will make the country back down over its atomic activities soon.

Any US push to again tighten such pressure on Iran may also anger Russia, which voted for a fourth round of UN sanctions last June, but which criticised subsequent unilateral steps by the United States and the European Union.

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