ALMATY Iran and six global powers took a step forward at talks on Tehran's nuclear programme on Saturday but failed to reach a compromise and remained at odds over basic questions about the path to a solution, the Russian negotiator said.
"Certainly, these talks were a step forward," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said. But he added: "We could not reach a compromise this time," and said it was premature to name a date and venue for further talks.
"Unfortunately, we were unable to achieve a breakthrough ... unfortunately, we are still on the threshold of the most important step," Ryabkov told a news conference.
"The contradiction between the good atmosphere and the absence of a result does not allow us to name a new venue and time for holding a new round of talks," he said.
After two rounds of talks this year in Almaty, Ryabkov suggested that differences over Iran's demand that its right to enrich uranium be recognised were a major obstacle.
"A model for an ultimate solution could and should be recognition of all of Iran's rights under the (nuclear) non-proliferation treaty, including its right to enrichment, in return for putting Iran's nuclear programme under the all-embracing control of the International Atomic Energy Agency," Ryabkov said.
"If such a deal takes place, then, in our opinion, Iran might be fully relieved of sanctions," he said.
The U.N. Security Council has imposed four rounds of sanctions to try to force Iran to curb its nuclear programme and eliminate suspicions that it could be developing a nuclear weapons capacity.
"The problem is, the Iranian side insists on a different succession of events and even uses different terms," Ryabkov said, adding that this was "the source of all the disparity" between Iran and the six global powers involved in the negotiations.
Iran, which denies seeking nuclear weapons, wants major economic sanctions lifted and its right to enrich uranium publicly recognised. The six nations say this right only applies when nuclear work is carried out under sufficient oversight by U.N. inspectors, something Iran has refused to grant.
Ryabkov also criticised Western nations for imposing additional sanctions, which he said ran counter to international law, and for unspecified forceful measures against Iran.
(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Megan Davies and Kevin Liffey)