GENEVA, (Reuters) – Major powers and Iran ended two days of talks on Tuesday, an official close to the meeting said, but there was no sign of any breakthrough in the long-running dispute over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
Iranian state television said Iran and the six major powers – the United States, France, Russia, Britain, Germany and China – would meet again in Istanbul by the end of next month.
At the Geneva talks, the powers sought to put concerted pressure on Iran to agree to discuss international concern over its nuclear programme, which the West suspects is aimed at making bombs.
But Iran made clear again it would not back down in the dispute, which has the potential to spark a military conflict in the Middle East with dire consequences for the world economy.
“Iran will continue talks only if they are based on mutual cooperation and only if they are about issues that both sides are agreed upon,” Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said.
“We will not talk about Iran’s nuclear rights and Iran will never accept pressure,” he told Iranian state television.
Underlining how far apart the two sides remain, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said negotiations could be “fruitful” if sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear activities were scrapped – a likely non-starter for the West.
In a speech in Iran, Ahmadinejad called on the powers to publicly declare Iran’s national “rights”, saying they would have “nothing but remorse” if they failed to do so.
Western powers want the Islamic state to ultimately agree to curb its nuclear enrichment activities, which can have both peaceful and military purposes, but Tehran has repeatedly refused to do this.
Iran insists its nuclear programme is designed to produce electricity so it can export more of its bountiful oil.
The six powers, coordinated by the European Union under its foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, had played down expectations of a breakthrough at the talks in Geneva, the first in over a year.
But they hoped that they will lead to a regular series of contacts. “We’ve said all along that this was a starting point, and the aim was to have another meeting in which we can take things forward,” said one EU diplomat.
Iran, which announced a breakthrough in its nuclear technology on the eve of the talks, has been under increasing pressure from sanctions imposed by the West, although Tehran says that it’s oil-based economy has not been affected.