Middle East

Fresh Iran nuclear talks to be held in Moscow

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton with Iran's chief negotiator Saeed Jalili
Image caption The EU's Catherine Ashton and Iran's Saeed Jalili led the two delegations

A fresh round of talks on Iran's nuclear programme will be held in Moscow in June, officials announced after a second day of talks in Baghdad.

The EU's foreign policy chief said "significant differences" remained, but some common ground had been found.

Six world powers made Iran an offer if it stopped processing medium-enriched uranium, which can be used to make nuclear weapons, EU officials said.

But Tehran insists that uranium enrichment is its non-negotiable right.

Speaking at a news conference after the talks on Thursday evening, the EU's Catherine Ashton described the two days of talks in the Iraqi capital as "intense".

"It is clear that we both want to make progress, and that there is some common ground. However, significant differences remain," she said.

A new meeting would be held in Moscow on 18-19 June, she said.

Speaking shortly afterwards, Iran's chief negotiator Saeed Jalili reiterated that peaceful nuclear energy and uranium enrichment were Iran's "right".

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Media captionEU's Catherine Ashton: "We agree on the need for further discussion to expand the common ground"

The BBC's James Reynolds at the talks says no-one was expecting any immediate breakthrough.

Earlier, an unnamed Western diplomat was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that negotiators for the six world powers presented Iran with a package combining new and old proposals.

It included an offer of medical isotopes and co-operation on nuclear safety.

In exchange, Tehran would stop its 20% uranium enrichment programme as a first step, the diplomat said.

Iran's official Irna news agency quoted government officials as describing the offer as "nitpicking" and the student news agency Isna said the package was "not balanced".

Iranian media said Mr Jalili, presented Tehran's own five-point package of proposals on "nuclear and non-nuclear issues".

Mrs Ashton confirmed that Tehran had offered its five-point plan, without giving further details.

Talks in Baghdad were extended for an additional day.

Decades of mistrust

The goal of the six powers' team, led Mrs Ashton, is an Iranian agreement to curb uranium enrichment and allow UN inspectors to verify its nuclear activity is for peaceful purposes only.

Iran's priority is to secure an end to international sanctions that isolate the country and damage its economy.

Tehran has repeatedly said it is not seeking nuclear arms.

The talks are being closely watched by Israel, which says Iran is trying to buy time to keep its nuclear plants in full operation. Tel Aviv has hinted at military action unless Iran's nuclear development is curbed.

Security was tight for the talks, with thousands of Iraqi police and troops protecting the venue inside Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.

On Tuesday, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano said an agreement with Iran over nuclear inspections was expected "quite soon" following his recent talks in Tehran.

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