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Iran negotiations meet low U.S. bar

GENEVA – Iran agreed Tuesday to another international meeting next month on its nuclear program, though it appeared that two days of talks in Geneva had made little progress in the seven-year push for it to guarantee that it isn’t seeking to build a nuclear weapon.

European Union foreign-policy chief Lady Catherine Ashton characterized the talks between Iran and the sextet of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States as “substantive” and “detailed” and said January’s meeting would be a search for “practical ideas and ways of cooperating towards resolution of our core concerns about the nuclear issue.”

But Iran’s negotiator, Saeed Jalili, offered a different interpretation, calling Ashton’s comments “disrespectful” and saying that the meeting next month in Istanbul would be devoted only to “cooperation to find common ground.”

“I am announcing openly and clearly that Iran will not discuss a uranium enrichment halt in the next meeting in Istanbul with major powers,” Jalili said.

Still, Western officials said the primary goal of the Geneva meeting, resuming negotiations, had been achieved. “Our expectations for this set of talks were low and I can’t say they were exceeded,” said a U.S. official.

At their last meeting, in October 2009, Iran agreed to ship most of its enriched uranium to Russia in exchange for fuel for a research reactor. The plan foundered within weeks, however, as Iran objected to the timing of the exchange.


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