Iran nuclear talks postponed, 'optimum point' to still be reached

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World powers hope Iran will react positively to their nuclear proposal presented at talks in the Kazakh city of Almaty when they meet Tehran’s negotiators in the next two months, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.

“I hope the Iranian side is looking positively on the proposal we put forward,” Ashton said after the two-day talks concluded. “We have to see what happens next,” she said.

Ashton gave a hugely cautious assessment of the talks, refusing to be drawn into a judgement of their success and saying she hoped for a positive response from the Iranians.

“We approach this with the absolutely united view that we need to see international confidence in this (Iranian nuclear) programme.”

Iran and world powers will hold their next talks over the Iranian nuclear crisis in Istanbul on March 17-18 involving senior officials from both sides, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said after talks in Kazakhstan.

“As a result of two days of negotiations, an agreement has been reached for a meeting at expert level in Istanbul on March 17-18,” Ryabkov said, quoted by the state RIA-Novosti news agency. The expert-level meetings usually involve senior officials ranking below the top negotiators from both sides.

This was echoed by Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili who said he would next hold talks with six world powers represented by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in the Kazakh city of Almaty on April 5-6.

“It was agreed to convene an expert level meeting in Istanbul on March 18, which would be followed by the 5+1 meeting with Iran on April 5-6 in Almaty,” Jalili told reporters, adding that the world powers were being “more realistic” in their approach to the standoff.

He also said that the production of 20% Iran’s nuclear fuel could be discussed in negotiations, which greatly worries the West, but he appeared to rule out closing the underground Fordo enrichment plant.

But, Jalili said there is still a long way left before reaching “optimum point” in nuclear talks.

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