Two days of talks between Iran and six world powers have ended in Baghdad without any concrete agreement, except to meet again next month in Moscow.
At the heart of the talks is an attempt by the US and other world powers to persuade Iran to accept immediate restrictions on its nuclear programme.
The US believes the Iranians want to build atomic weapons. But Tehran denies this and says its nuclear reactors will be used only for energy and research purposes. Iran was previously enriching uranium up to 3.5 per cent, and only started enriching to 20 per cent in 2009.
After the talks concluded, Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, said: “We expect Iran to take practical steps to urgently meet the concerns of the international community, to build confidence and to meet its international obligations.”Known as the P5 + 1 group, the powers negotiating with Iran include the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, Britain, Russia, China, France – plus Germany. They want Iran to stop enriching uranium to a concentration of 20 per cent. They say at that level it is easy to enrich the uranium further to develop weapons grade material.
Meanwhile, the Iranians went into the negotiations seeking an easing of crippling economic sanctions that have primarily targetted its oil exports.
Hans Blix was the former chief weapons inspector for the UN’s nuclear watchdog in the run up to the US-led invasion of Iraq. Among other things, he told Al Jazeera: “It would be in Israel’s interest to avoid that there will be any enrichment plants anywhere in the Middle East … the question will be for the Israelis are they willing to sacrifice their own nuclear weapons, which they have regarded as a life insurance, but in return getting a well-verified zone free all sorts of fuel-cycle activities like enrichment and re-processing? I think the whole Middle East would benefit from that.”