Moscow: Iran and six world powers sought elusive common ground on Monday in talks meant to reduce tensions over Tehran's nuclear activities that both sides see as crucial to their interests but which are stalled by reluctance to commit to each other's demands.

Diplomats from several nations meeting with Iran in Moscow depict the talks as significant. They say it could be the last in a series and that, if negotiators fail to make headway in persuading Tehran to stop higher-grade uranium enrichment, it's unclear if or when new talks would occur.

Iran insists all of its nuclear activities are peaceful. It denies interest in the nuclear weapons application of uranium enrichment, insisting it wants to make only reactor fuel and medical isotopes.

While Iran wants the other side to recognize its right to enrich and blink first by easing sanctions, the six The United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany say the onus is on Tehran to show it is ready to compromise. Such a stalemate led to the breakup of the last round of talks on May 20 in Baghdad without result, and complicates the chances of substantial progress in Moscow.

The talks are being convened by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, and her spokesman, Michael Mann, said the six were ready to "address the issues" raised by Tehran. At the same time, he said "we hope the Iranians will seriously engage on a set of proposals we put on the table in Baghdad."

The six are coming to Moscow prepared to ease restrictions on airplane parts for Iran's outmoded, mostly US-produced civilian fleet and are offering technical help with aspects of Iran's nuclear program that cannot be used for military purposes.

While not budging on lifting existing sanctions or those already decided upon, diplomats familiar with the talks told The Associated Press the six are also prepared to guarantee that no new UN penalties will be enacted if Tehran shows enough compromise. The diplomats demanded anonymity because that possible offer has not yet been formally made.

For Iran, the main demand is international recognition of its right to enrich and related issues. Although it is under UN Security Council sanctions for refusing to stop that activity because of concerns it could use it to arm nuclear missiles, Tehran insists it has a right to do so to for its stated goal of creating reactor fuel and medical isotopes.

The six, in turn, are ready to gloss over the Security Council prohibition of all enrichment and are prepared for now to tolerate Iran enriching to low-grades, suitable for nuclear fuel.

But they are pressing the Islamic Republic to stop higher enrichment to 20 per cent purity because at that level the material can be turned into weapons grade uranium much more quickly than the low-enriched uranium can.

The six also want Fordo, the underground Iranian facility where most of this enrichment is taking place, shut down and for Iran to ship out its higher-grade stockpile.


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