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No breakthrough in Iran nuclear talks

While all sides agree to keep talking, little progress has been made in overcoming significant disagreements.

FILE: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Picture: AFP

UNITED NATIONS - Iran and six world powers made little progress in overcoming significant disagreements in the most recent round of nuclear talks, including on uranium enrichment, Iranian and Western diplomats close to the negotiations said on Friday.Officials from Iran and the six countries had cautioned ahead of the talks in New York that a breakthrough was unlikely to end sanctions on Tehran, although they had hoped substantial progress could be made in narrowing disagreements.

A senior State Department official said gaps "are still serious" with just eight weeks to go before a 24 November deadline.

"We do not have an understanding on all major issues, we have some understandings that are helpful to move this process forward and we have an enormous number of details still to work through," the official told reporters.

"We still have some very, very difficult understandings yet to reach, and everyone has to make difficult decisions and we continue to look to Iran to make some of the ones necessary for getting to a comprehensive agreement," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Another diplomat said Iran and the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia andChina would likely meet again in the coming weeks, but no date and venue have been set.

Iran President Hassan said at a news conference on in New York that the "progress we have witnessed in recent days has been extremely slow."

"We must look forward to the future and make the courageous decisions vis-a-vis this problem," he said, adding that any deal without lifting all sanctions against Tehran was "unacceptable."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that an interim deal approved in Geneva last November under which Iran had halted higher-level enrichment in exchange for limited sanctions relief "has made the world safer."

On a long-term deal, Kerry said "it remains our fervent hope that Iran" and the six powers "can in the next weeks come to an agreement that would benefit the world."

Iran and the six hope that a resolution of the more-than-decade-long nuclear standoff with Iran will reduce regional tensions and remove the risk of another war in the Middle East.

At the General Assembly earlier in the week, Rouhani said a deal that ends sanctions will open the door to deeper cooperation on regional peace and stability and the fight against militants such as Islamic State, a group that has seized parts of Iraq and Syria. The United States has made clear it will not link the two issues.

Israel has repeatedly threatened to use military force against Iranian atomic sites if diplomacy fails to defuse what it sees as the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Iran rejects allegations from Western powers and their allies that it is seeking a nuclear weapons capability but has refused to halt uranium enrichment, inviting multiple rounds of U.S., European Union and U.N. Security Council sanctions. Enrichment is a process of purifying uranium for use as fuel for power plants or, if enriched to a very high purity, for bombs.