Iran Nuclear Talks Hit Snag

Posted May 23rd, 2012 at 9:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Continuing talks between Iran and global powers have hit a snag as the West rebuffed Tehran's call for an immediate easing of economic sanctions and official Iranian media said the proposals on the table needed to be significantly revised.

The negotiations in Baghdad were extended for a second day into Thursday, as U.S. and European officials said they remained committed to finding a solution to the impasse.

Western representatives presented a package Wednesday that calls on Tehran to freeze production of nuclear fuel enriched to 20 percent purity, considered a short step away from weapons grade. The plan also seeks to close an Iranian enrichment facility built inside a fortified military bunker near the holy city of Qom.

In exchange, the P5+1 group offered benefits, including medical isotopes, some nuclear safety cooperation and spare parts for civilian airliners, much needed in Iran. The P5+1 includes the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany.

The Iranian side indicated that ending impending Western sanctions on Tehran's oil trade is key for the talks to advance. But diplomats from the six world powers have refused to consider postponing the new harsher measures.

Iran's state-run IRNA news agency said Tehran presented its own package Wednesday, including details on what mutual compromises Iran and its international counterparts should make.

IRNA criticized the proposal from the six-nation group, saying it makes too many demands of Iran while offering too little in return.

Iran said its enrichment work is meant for medical research and generating electricity. Western nations fear Iran could quickly upgrade its uranium to the 90 percent purity needed for nuclear weapons.

Baghdad University professor Said Dahdhoh told VOA's Kurdish service that Iran wants the talks to be comprehensive and focus on more than just the nuclear dispute. He said Tehran also wants the West to clarify its stand on Bahrain and other regional issues.

Shi'ite Iran has strongly criticized plans by Bahrain's minority Sunni leadership to seek a political union with Sunni-dominated Gulf states. Bahrain's ruling family is an ally of Washington that provides the U.S. Navy with a key regional base.

World powers have insisted for months that talks focus solely on the disputes with Iran's nuclear program.

This is the second round of a dialogue that resumed last month in Istanbul after a break of more than a year.

Published reports say the six-nation group is reviving a 2009 proposal for Iran to ship out its stockpiles of low-enriched uranium in return for higher-enriched fuel for a medical research reactor in Tehran.

Iran is seeking pledges from the world powers to ease U.N. and Western sanctions imposed on the country for defying international demands for a suspension of enrichment.

Israel sees a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat to its existence and refuses to rule out military action against the Iranian nuclear program.

Israeli officials have urged the world powers not to compromise on their demand for a stop to Iranian enrichment work. Those officials also have expressed concern that Iran will make empty promises of concessions to buy more time to covertly develop nuclear weapons.