'No progress in Iran nuke talks, atmosphere not good'

Final day of talks between Tehran and 6 world powers on Islamic Republic's nuclear program gets underway; source close to talks notes "no particular rapprochement"; Israeli official: Iran thumbing noses at West.

Jalili and Ashton at Iran talks in Kazakhstan 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Jalili and Ashton at Iran talks in Kazakhstan 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
MOSCOW - Six world powers have failed so far to make any clear progress at talks with Iran on its nuclear program, Russian news agency Interfax quoted a source close to the talks as saying on Wednesday.
"So far there is no particular rapprochement. There is an impression that the atmosphere (at talks) is not very good," Interfax quoted the source as saying in the Kazakh city of Almaty where a second day of talks was under way.
The United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia offered to lift some sanctions if Tehran scales back nuclear activity when their first meeting with Iran in eight months began in Almaty on Tuesday and the Islamic state was considering it, the powers' spokesman said.
Western officials described the first day of the meeting as "useful". One said Iran discussed aspects of the powers' ideas in bilateral talks with three of them - Russia, Germany and Britain - but gave no indication how Tehran viewed them.
Iranian state television described the atmosphere in the discussions as "very serious".
The outcome of the meeting in the Kazakh city will be closely watched in Israel, which has strongly hinted that it could attack Iran's nuclear sites if diplomacy and sanctions fail to stop the uranium enrichment program.
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Iran says Israel's assumed nuclear arsenal is the main threat to peace and denies Western allegations it is seeking to develop the capability to make atomic bombs. It says it is only aiming to produce nuclear energy so that it can export more oil.
In their latest attempt to break years of deadlock in the dispute, the powers are offering Iran a relaxation of some of the sanctions that are taking a heavy toll on its economy.
"Hopefully the Iranians will be able to reflect overnight and will come back and view our proposal positively," the spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the powers in the talks, said.
"The ball is in their court," Michael Mann added after the first day of discussions on Tuesday.
He did not give details of the offer, but other Western officials have confirmed it includes some limited sanctions easing if Iran closes a underground site where it carries out its most controversial uranium enrichment work.
Diplomats see scant chances of a conclusive deal with Iran before a June presidential election - with the political elite preoccupied with domestic issues - but they hope to hold follow-up talks to the Almaty meeting soon.
Iran would put forward its own proposal of "the same weight" as that of the other side, a source close to the Iranian negotiating team said on Tuesday, but Western officials said it had not done so during the first day of negotiations.
A senior Israeli official said Wednesday that Iran was pressing ahead with its nuclear program while "everyone is talking".
"As of now, the Iranians are thumbing their noses," Sima Shine, head of the Iran desk at the Strategic Affairs Ministry, told Army Radio. "They are coming to negotiations, speaking hyperbolically, trying to talk about their right to uranium enrichment ... But in parallel they are advancing."