Iran and world powers met today for the second and final day of new talks aimed at breaking a decade-old deadlock over Tehran’s nuclear drive, with the clock again ticking down on efforts to find a solution.

The two sides held an indecisive first day of negotiations in the Kazakh city of Almaty yesterday that ended with only an agreement to meet again and Western officials admitting the positions were still far apart.

They most notably failed to resolve the main issue on the table — whether Iran will accept some demands concerning its nuclear programme in return for relief on the sanctions that have hurt the Islamic republic’s economy in the past two years.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton had started the day yesterday by meeting chief Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili.

“During Ms Ashton and Dr Saeed Jalili’s meeting this morning the latest situation of the negotiations and different aspects of each side’s stances were discussed in detail,” said an Iranian official.

“The sides also exchanged views on ways to progress along the path of negotiations,” said the official.

The Iranian delegation also met separately with French and Chinese diplomats before all sides went into a full plenary session that is expected to conclude the Almaty talks.

Iran resolutely insists on international recognition of its right to enrich uranium and wants that condition be a part of any deal.

The world powers on the other hand say the onus is on Iran to take the first step. They insist on it ending enrichment to high levels and shuttering the Fordo mountain bunker where such activity takes place before any recognition for Iran’s nuclear rights are granted.

The talks concluded yesterday after two plenary sessions lasting a combined six hours with Iran answering a series of questions about its list of demands.

A Western official said the two sides still had strongly differing visions of ways to solve the dispute.

“We had a long and substantial discussion on the issues, but we remain a long way apart on the substance,” the Western official said after yesterday’s talks.

“We are now evaluating the situation and will meet again tomorrow (today).”

Russian negotiator Sergei Ryabkov summed up the day by saying that the difficulty at the talks proved their seriousness.

“The answers prompted more questions,” Russian news agencies quoted Ryabkov as saying. “But this proves that these talks are serious.”

(This article was published on April 6, 2013)
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