May 25, 2012 - 12:25 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Iran and six world powers achieved little in two days of intense nuclear talks in Baghdad except arranging another meeting in Moscow next month and establishing they are poles apart on crucial issues, AFP reported.
The latest diplomatic push between Iran and the P5+1 - the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - at one stage even looked unlikely to take place until desperate eleventh-hour efforts managed to salvage the process - for now.
"We remain determined to resolve this problem in the near term through negotiations, and will continue to make every effort to that end," Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, said after two "very intense" days of talks. "What we have now is some common ground and a meeting in place where we can take that further forward," she said, announcing the next round would take place in Moscow on June 18-19.
She added however that there remained "significant differences" and that Iran must take "concrete and practical steps to urgently meet the concerns of the international community."
The main bone of contention was - and will remain in Moscow - the speed at which the P5+1 eases sanctions in return for the Islamic republic scaling back the most sensitive parts of its nuclear programme.
Ashton put forward in the Iraqi capital on behalf of the six powers a new package of proposals that clearly went down badly with the Iranians.
The P5+1 want Iran to restrict to purities of 20 percent the enrichment of uranium, the area of Iran's activities that most raises their suspicions that Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear arsenal.
In return reports indicated the international powers are prepared to offer a variety of sweeteners, including fuel plates for a reactor producing medical isotopes, relaxing restrictions on aircraft parts and nuclear safety assistance.
But this falls short of the lifting of the whole raft of UN Security Council and unilateral Western sanctions that have been hit Iran's economy for years.
Reflecting official thinking in Tehran, state media ran reports slammed the package, with the IRNA news agency calling it as "outdated, not comprehensive, and unbalanced." Iran meanwhile is loath to give up what its chief negotiator in Baghdad, Saeed Jalili called its "absolute right" to uranium enrichment.
In the end, with the Baghdad talks extended several times - they were originally only meant to last one day - the two sides agreed to differ, setting the stage for what may be a make-or-break gathering in the Russian capital.