Iran nuclear: Ashton says positions 'still far apart'

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton emerges from talks in Almaty, 6 April Baroness Ashton said positions were "far apart"

Talks between world powers and Iran on its nuclear programme have ended without agreement, with the EU saying their positions "remain far apart".

Over two days of talks in Almaty, Iran was asked to give up work on its most sensitive nuclear activities in return for an easing of sanctions.

Iran said it was up to the world powers to demonstrate willingness to take confidence-building steps.

World powers suspect Iran of a covert nuclear weapons programme.

Tehran, which insists its intentions are peaceful, is negotiating with the so-called P5+1 group comprising the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the US, Russia, China, the UK and France - plus Germany.

'No breakthrough'

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton confirmed no deal was reached.

"A robust and detailed back-and-forth on specific elements" is how a senior US official described 48 hours in Almaty.

"Some good negotiations," were the words used by Iran's Chief Negotiator Saeed Jalili.

By all accounts, there was more talking in the talks than in the past decade of tortuous negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme.

But it's underlined how wide the gaps are, how deep the mistrust is, how far they still have to go to achieve a negotiated solution.

And time is not on anyone's side. Both sides are under pressure to prove talks are not failing. But there was no agreement, not even on a date to meet again, although consultations and telephone calls are in the diaries.

Both sides believe the other is still asking for too much, for too little in return. Both believe the ball is in the other's court. But the onus still lies on Iran to prove its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful, lest calls for military action grow ever louder.

"It became clear that the positions... remain far apart on the substance," she told reporters on Saturday.

"We have therefore agreed that all sides will go back to [their] capitals to evaluate where we stand in the process," she added.

"I think the first hurdle is take the proposal that we put on the table and get a real response to all of it... The challenge is to get real engagement so that we can move forward with this."

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov confirmed there had been a "lack of results".

"Unfortunately we were unable to achieve a breakthrough and are still on the threshold," he was quoted as saying by Russia's Interfax news agency.

According to AFP news agency, he also said no time or place for the next talks had yet been agreed.

Tehran's chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency: "We proposed our plan of action and the other party was not ready and they asked for some time to study the idea."

At a previous round of talks in Kazakhstan in February, the P5+1 tried to push Tehran to halt production and stockpiling of uranium enriched to 20%.

The P5+1 also demanded Iran shut down the Fordo underground enrichment facility.

In return, the world powers suggested easing tough economic sanctions imposed on Iran in response to its nuclear programme.

Iran's economy has been squeezed, with oil revenue slashed, the currency nose-diving in value and unemployment growing.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    We - the West - should not be talking to Iran or NK.
    They should just be made to realise what will happen to them if they fire so much as a single malfunctioning nuclear missile aimed at any other country.

    Let them talk for all they want but don't react to their childish behaviour..

    They are both dictatorships that should not be recognised.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.


    The western mentality is simple. We have democracy, accountability, countries like Iran, North Korea aren't so accountable.

    We believe in choice and taxing bad choices, they believe in controlling what people do through lack of choice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    As a "Westerner" who has lived and worked all over the world, I find our treatment of non-Western countries bizarre - we are self centred hypocrites! Iran was once a great nation and, like Britain, still thinks it is great. Britain grants itself recognition in its name - Great Britain. How arrogant! By denying Iran equality, we inflame Iran's search for a nuclear weapon. We in the West are stupid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Time to start stockpiling sticks and stones in preparation for World War IV

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Thanks Donald, (12. Donald Deed) I appreciate your reassuring comment on my first paragraph; what is your take on the second?

    Copied below:-

    It seems to me that the 'West' are more concerned about a Judo-Christian Vs Islamic confrontation than about World Peace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Maybe we could sell "Trident" to them and get some cash for them now that we are replacing them with new ones.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    No, we shoot them down, Iranian Airbus ring a bell??????

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    @Iansankey - if that is the case that should rule out the US then who have a strong evangelical population waiting for the end of days. Fact is Iran does not have nukes, they have the right for peaceful nuclear power. The Shah who the west propped up was also developing nuclear power. Nobody batted an eye lid then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    What I can't understand there r people who actually think a nuclear armed Iran is a good thing!, Sage from Saga forum 4 1, how in hell can more nukes make the world safer, it's like saying if we all had a handgun there would b no crimes!, & now some r saying N K is worried about a US invasion that's why it's got nukes, but actually having them makes this more probable especially if N K attacked.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    15. rideforever

    You forgot
    5. We don't crash airliners full of innocent people into skyscrapers to murder three thousand office workers.

    6. We'd prefer that the kind of lunatics who do number 5 don't have nuclear weapons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Surely, this must include the US and Israel?

    3. Ian Sankey
    Nations whose leaders & majority of population believe that life on this earth is merely a warm up for the afterlife... and to get to paradise they need to either convert or kill anyone who doesn't share their beliefs about the whims of the non existent invisible magic man in the sky.... should not have nuclear weapons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Negotiating with Islamist Iran is to be about as successful as negotating with Stalinist North Korea has been.

    [one can negotiate with rational opponents, not with lunatics.]

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    After the Hans Blix debacle, where inspectors found no evidence of WMD in Iraq yet we invaded anyway under that pretext (and guess what? No WMD!) I worry that even if Iran allows inspectors in, we'll invade anyway even if the inspectors report that the nuclear program is entirely a power generation project.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.


    1. We can have nuclear weapons.

    2. Our friends can have nuclear weapons.

    3. We can give nuclear weapons to other countries if it helps us get richer.

    4. YOU cannot have nuclear weapons.

    This we call ... "reasoning".

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Regarding my previous comment (comment No1) that is being voted down, I'm talking about the rhetoric of extremists NOT the entire nation. I realise I could have better described my opinion, but it was a gut reaction to what I read. Ahmadinejad and men like him have extremist ideas, that's what I'm saying.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Keep the sanctions on Iran ,if they ease them now they will think the west is weak and just carry on with the enrichment program,
    they should increase sanctions until Iran is on its knees

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    5. cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine
    Is it my imagination or is the 'West' more concerned about Iranian nuclear weapons development than the more advanced work of North Korea?
    It's your imagination.

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Iran is betting that the West will do anything to avoid going to war. Yes, we are peace-loving but that should not be mistaken for weakness. Iran shows no respect by continuing to work on their program. They need to be reminded that they are on the short end of the stick. The west can strike with deadly precision - then watch how quickly they are willing to negotiate. Time is up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Iran is playing a high stakes game of poker, and keep raising the ante ... they will have to be careful their is not called. Using nuclear weapons/WMDs to gain political advantage is a dangerous game. It can justify invasion and bombings and alienates you from your neighbours. Lets all hope N Korea and Iran know when to fold.


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