Iran nuclear talks 'fail to close gaps'
Two days of talks between Iran and the West on Tehran's nuclear program have ended with no clear outcome. Just two weeks remain ahead of a deadline for an agreement acceptable to both sides.
Iran, the United States and European Union on Monday ended two days of high-level talks aimed at settling a decade-long dispute on the scope of Tehran's nuclear program.
A senior Iranian official told Reuters news agency that little progress had been made at the discussions in the capital of Oman, Muscat.
"Still differences remain and still we have gaps over issues," the official said.
While the talks were still under way, the United States described them as "tough, direct and serious." State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in Washington that the US remained "very focused on making progress," adding that there was "still time to do so."
Two weeks remain before a November 24 deadline for an agreement that would curb Iran's nuclear program in return for the lifting of economic sanctions.
The meetings on Sunday and Monday were led by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, US Secretary of State John Kerry and EU envoy Catherine Ashton (shown above).
Diplomats from Iran and the "P5 + 1" countries - the five UN veto powers Britain, China, France, Russia and the US plus Germany - were due to resume talks in Muscat on Tuesday.
There will then be a last bid to meet the deadline at further discussions in Vienna from November 18 to 24.
Western countries fear that Iran is using its nuclear program - which Tehran says is for purely peaceful purposes - to develop the means to build nuclear weapons. The current discussions aim to impose verifiable limits on Iran's uranium enrichment work in return for a gradual removal of the sanctions imposed on Tehran by the US, EU and UN Security Council.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, long the most vocal opponent of an international accord with the government in Tehran, warned against a hasty deal in a series of posts on his Twitter account.
Diplomats say stumbling blocks include agreeing on the size of Iran's enrichment program, the duration of any final accord and the speed at which sanctions would be phased out.
tj/msh (Reuters, AFP)