“What we have now is some common ground and a meeting in place where we can take this forward,” she said.
The talks in Baghdad — between Iran and world powers United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — had been accompanied by high hopes that the current climate was conducive to progress on a deal that would help ease a decade of tensions over Iran’s nuclear activities and lift the threat of war hanging over the Middle East.
But the negotiations snagged early on as Iran rejected a package of proposals put forward by the world powers as inadequate because it offered no immediate relief from crippling economic sanctions, nor any acknowledgment of the right Tehran claims to enrich uranium.
Chief Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili called the talks “thorough but unfinished.” He said Iran was not prepared to make any concessions unless the six nations accept “the undeniable right of the Iranian nation . . . to enrich uranium.” U.S. officials said that is not a concession they are prepared to grant.
Jalili also made it clear that Iran would not countenance a deal that did not alleviate the sanctions that have been taking an increasingly devastating toll on the country’s economy.
“We believe the pathway to talks can be successful only if destructive pathways working in parallel with the pathways are stopped,” Jalili said. “This strategy of pressure is over. It is outmoded.”
Iran did concede, however, that it is open to negotiations about the level to which it will continue to enrich uranium. Iran has the capacity to enrich uranium up to 20 percent, which puts it within technical reach of the 90 percent level required for the fissile material used in nuclear weapons.
If world powers acknowledged Iran’s right, Jalili said, “this enrichment . . . could be an issue of cooperation and talks.”
Ashton said the six world powers had put forward proposals concerning “what could be done around the 20 percent” enrichment level, suggesting that the issue could be addressed further at the Moscow talks, scheduled for June 18-19.
‘A lot of work still to do’
In Washington, administration officials acknowledged that the talks had not produced anything close to the breakthrough some had hoped for. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the negotiations had been “serious” and “substantive” but that significant gaps remained.
“We think that the choice is now Iran’s to work to close the gaps,” Clinton told reporters at the State Department. “We anticipate there will be ongoing work between now and the next meeting in Moscow, but it’s very clear that there’s a lot of work still to do.”