But there was no offer of immediate relief from the biting economic sanctions that are hurting Iran’s economy and, notably, no proposal to reconsider a potentially crippling prohibition on Iranian oil exports by the European Union that is to go into effect July 1, a top priority for Tehran.
Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency condemned the package as “outdated, not comprehensive and unbalanced.”
“There is no balance, and there is nothing to get in return,” the news agency said.
Talks continued until nearly midnight at a guesthouse in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone between chief Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili and representatives of six world powers: the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. Plans were made to extend the negotiations into a second day in an effort to find ways to help keep alive this latest diplomatic effort to resolve the concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
U.S. officials said they are still hopeful that enough common ground would be found Thursday to schedule another round of talks soon. With Israel threatening to strike Iranian nuclear facilities to prevent the Islamic republic from developing the capacity to build a nuclear bomb, many military and security experts have portrayed these latest talks, which began in Istanbul last month after a 15-month hiatus, as a last chance to avert war.
“It has been a difficult day, but I take that as a good sign,” said a senior U.S. administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. “It means we have engaged with each other and discussed difficult issues.”
The proposals presented to Iran were intended to ease Western concerns about the country’s nuclear ambitions while offering Tehran a path toward eventual relief from Western sanctions. The six world powers, known as the P5-plus-1, are pressing Iran to immediately give up some of the most weapons-sensitive parts of its nuclear program, including halting its production of a more purified type of enriched uranium that can be easily converted into weapons-grade fuel. Iran also is being asked to ship abroad its stockpile of this 20 percent enriched uranium and eventually shut down a new enrichment plant built into a mountainside near the city of Qom. Much of Iran’s 20 percent enriched uranium is being made there, inside bunkers beyond the reach of most conventional airstrikes.
If Iran agreed, it would receive modest relief from some technology restrictions, such as on imports of aircraft parts, Western diplomats said. Broader relief from sanctions and oil embargoes would come later as part of a more comprehensive agreement on permanent limits to Iran’s nuclear program, the officials said.