Middle East

Iran nuclear talks: Rouhani warns time running out

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Media captionHassan Rouhani: "Under no conditions can sanctions be thought of as the right path"

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has warned that time is running out for negotiating a permanent agreement on his country's nuclear programme.

He said that talks this week between Iran and six world powers on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York had made very slow progress.

A deadline for a permanent deal has been set for 24 November.

However, Mr Rouhani said he believed that relations between Iran and the US did not have to remain hostile forever.

The US, EU and other powers suspect Iran of secretly seeking to develop nuclear weapons, a claim it denies.

Talks are focusing on the lifting of Western sanctions on Iran in exchange for a scaling-back of Iran's uranium enrichment programme.

An interim deal struck in Geneva late last year froze or capped key elements of Iran's nuclear programme in return for limited relief from sanctions.

"There have been steps forward, but they haven't been significant," Mr Rouhani told a news conference.

He said that Iran had shown the necessary flexibility and that it now was up to the six powers - the US, UK, China, France, Russia and Germany - to advance the talks.

"Time is short," he said.

Sanctions 'melted away'

Analysts say the talks remain stuck over uranium enrichment. Iran says it needs a robust enrichment programme to make reactor fuel and for other peaceful purposes but the US and others fear it could also be used to make a nuclear weapon.

President Rouhani said that Iran would never accept any agreement that required it to stop enriching uranium, and that sanctions must "be melted away".

"Iran will never surrender its legal right to the pursuit of civil peaceful nuclear activity," he said.

On a more positive note, he added: "It is not written in stone that the relationship between Iran and the US must be hostile forever.

"One day this will change."

Since the election of President Rouhani last year, Iran has promised to further co-operate with the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

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