Iran and the six world powers blamed each other for deadlock at talks on Tehran's nuclear program on Tuesday, as negotiators struggled for a breakthrough 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 United States, China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain fear may be aimed at building nuclear arms.
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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 on financial markets 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 did not come to Moscow only for discussions. 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 program has only non-military purposes but the so-called P5+1, grouping 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 an underground enrichment facility, Fordow.
Seeking common ground
Diplomats said efforts were being made to find enough common ground to press on with talks in Moscow, and to ensure negotiations continue elsewhere in the future.
"There are a lot of ideas in play. It's part of the ebb and flow of negotiations," said a Western envoy.
"Contacts are still ongoing to seek a way forward," another Western diplomat said after hours of talks on Tuesday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who leads Russia's delegation at the talks, said as talks resumed on Tuesday that diplomacy could still work even though a European Union spokesman had described day one as "intense and tough."
"I don't think anything will break down. We will have a reasonable outcome," Ryabkov said.
But other diplomats were less optimistic and hopes receded as the day wore on with no sign of progress.
The Moscow talks follow two rounds of negotiations since diplomacy resumed in April after a 15-month hiatus during which the West cranked up sanctions pressure and Israel repeated its threat to bomb Iranian nuclear sites if diplomacy failed.
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