Talks between Iran's nuclear negotiator and a top envoy for the EU ended late on Thursday with few signs they were closer to breaking their deadlock over Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, said talks with Ali Larijani, the Iranian negotiator would start again within weeks.
"We cannot say that there has been a fundamental breakthrough, but what we can say it that we have advanced in many important subjects," Solana told a brief news conference after the four-hour meeting outside Madrid.
Exactly one year after the US President George W. Bush's administration offered to reverse almost three decades of US foreign policy and enter European nuclear talks with Iran, Washington and Tehran are holding to the same entrenched positions regarding Iran's uranium enrichment activities. Enriched uranium can be used to produce nuclear fuel, but at much higher grades can be used in nuclear warheads.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Iran on Thursday of trying to "perfect technologies that are going to lead to a nuclear weapon."
She said the US and its allies would continue to seek to isolate Iran financially if it did not suspend its enrichment program. She repeated the US ultimatum that the US would seek action both within and outside the UN Security Council if Iran did not accept the offer to talk, along with the strings attached.
"The question is not why won't we talk to Tehran, but why won't Tehran talk to us," Rice told a news conference at a meeting of international female political leaders.
Larijani dismissed the possibility of suspending uranium enrichment on Thursday, telling journalists in Madrid that Tehran had "abandoned the suspension issue," but that it was nonetheless "quite serious about reaching out for a solution to these problems as soon as possible."
Solana acknowledged before the meeting that hopes for a breakthrough were slim.
"It's true that as time goes by, if the situation continues, probably the agreement will be more complicated," Solana said. "I will try to see if we can pave the way in order to get into formal negotiations."
Foreign ministers of the G8 nations issued a statement on Wednesday that said, "if Iran continues to ignore demands of the Security Council, we will support" more sanctions at the Security Council, which has already passed two sets of mild sanctions against Iran in the past six months.
A European official briefed on the negotiations said Larijani hinted, ahead of talks in Ankara, Turkey, last month, to diplomats involved in the ongoing negotiations that Iran might be prepared to suspend partially its enrichment process as a condition for lifting sanctions and beginning formal talks. It was reported on Wednesday that this nascent proposal was dismissed by European diplomats and then withdrawn by Iran.