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Impasse Persists in Iran Nuclear Talks

Iran and six world powers were unable in their latest round of talks to break the long-running impasse on the terms for nuclear work in the Middle Eastern nation that all can accept, Reuters reported on Saturday.

Delegates from Tehran met on Friday and Saturday in Almaty, Kazakhstan, with senior diplomats from China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. This was the latest in a series of meetings on the nuclear standoff.

While envoys said they anticipate additional meetings, nothing has been set.

"It became clear that our positions remain far apart," said European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who has led the talks on behalf of the six world powers.

Iran says its atomic activities are strictly civilian in nature, while the United States and allied nations suspect the nation of seeking a nuclear-weapon capability.

The six nations had offered limited easing of economic penalties in exchange for Iran's agreement to halt enrichment of uranium to 20 percent and some additional curbs on the sensitive work. Tehran says the material is needed to fuel a medical research reactor, while outside nations worry the project presents a major step toward production of weapon-grade uranium with an enrichment level of about 90 percent.

"The Iranians indicated readiness to take some steps but they were small," according to an envoy from a Western nation.

Top Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said his team "proposed our plan of action and the other party was not ready and they asked for some time to study the idea."

There has been little expectation of progress before Iran's June presidential election. "We don't know" if there will be further talks before that point, Reuters quoted a high-level U.S. official as saying on Saturday.

"This is not an endless process. ... You can't just talk for the sake of talking," Agence France-Presse quoted U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as saying on Sunday in Turkey.

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz on Sunday said the United States and its Western allies should in "a few weeks, a month" establish a schedule for use of force should Iran persist with uranium enrichment, Reuters reported. Tel Aviv has defined the so-called "red line" as Iranian production of sufficient higher-enriched uranium for one nuclear weapon.

Meanwhile, a senior Iranian lawmaker said the nation could drop out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty if faced with additional sanctions or if the nuclear case is moved back to the U.N. Security Council, the Associated Press reported.

NTI Analysis

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