Major powers and Iran ended two days of talks yesterday, an official close to the meeting said, but there was no sign of any breakthrough in the long-running dispute over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
Iranian state TV said Iran and the six major powers — the US, France, Russia, Britain, Germany and China — would meet again in Istanbul by the end of next month.
At the Geneva talks, the powers sought to put concerted pressure on Iran to agree to discuss international concern over its nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at making bombs.
However, Iran made clear again it would not back down in the dispute, which has the potential to spark a military conflict in the Middle East with dire consequences for the world economy.
“Iran will continue talks only if they are based on mutual cooperation and only if they are about issues that both sides are agreed upon,” said Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator.
“We will not talk about Iran’s nuclear rights and Iran will never accept pressure,” he told Iranian state television.
Underlining how far apart the two sides remain, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said negotiations could be “fruitful” if sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear activities were scrapped — a likely non-starter for the West.
In a speech in Iran, Ahmadinejad called on the powers to publicly declare Iran’s national “rights,” saying they would have “nothing but remorse” if they failed to do so.
Western powers want the Islamic state to ultimately agree to curb its nuclear enrichment activities, which can have both peaceful and military purposes, but Tehran has repeatedly refused to do this.
Iran insists its nuclear program is designed to produce electricity so it can export more of its bountiful oil.
The six powers, coordinated by the EU under its foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, had played down expectations of a breakthrough at the talks in Geneva, the first in over a year.
However, they hoped that they would lead to a regular series of contacts.
“We’ve said all along that this was a starting point, and the aim was to have another meeting in which we can take things forward,” one EU diplomat said.
Iran, which announced a breakthrough in its nuclear technology on the eve of the talks, has been under increasing pressure from sanctions imposed by the West, although Tehran says that it’s oil-based economy has not been affected.