Iran and six world powers blamed each other for a deadlock at talks on Tehran's nuclear programme yesterday, as negotiators struggled to reduce the risk of a new Middle East war.
Late on the second and final day of talks in Moscow, diplomats said negotiators were still far from agreement on Iranian work which the US, China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain fear may be aimed at building nuclear arms.
The six powers want Tehran to stop enriching uranium to levels that bring it close to acquiring weapons-grade material, but Iran has demanded relief from economic sanctions and an acknowledgement that it has the right to enrich uranium.
If talks collapse, anxiety could grow over the danger of higher oil prices and conflict in the Middle East because Israel has threatened to attack Iranian nuclear sites if diplomacy fails to stop Tehran getting the bomb.
"We came to Moscow for a resolution. But we believe the opposite side is not ready to reach a resolution," an Iranian diplomat said. Iran says its programme has only non-military purposes but the so-called P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany – say Tehran must do more to prove this and permit United Nations inspections of its work.
"Our key requirements are: stop, shut and ship," said a Western diplomat who was present at the talks. He was referring to demands for Iran to stop producing higher-grade uranium, ship any stockpile out of the country and close down its Fordow underground enrichment facility.