Lack of deal with Iran on nuclear talks alarms Russia
By Steve Gutterman and Fredrik Dahl
MOSCOW/VIENNA (Reuters) - Russia voiced alarm on Friday at delays in agreeing new nuclear talks between world powers and Iran and the U.N. atomic watchdog chief said he was not optimistic ahead of his inspectors' separate visit to Tehran next week.
The comments underlined the difficult challenges facing world powers in their search for a diplomatic solution to the decade-old standoff over Iran's nuclear programme to avert the threat of a new Middle East war.
Iran, which denies Western accusations it is seeking to develop a capability to make nuclear weapons but is facing intensifying sanctions pressure, said last week it had agreed to resume negotiations in January with the six major powers.
But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Friday there was no final agreement on when or where a meeting would take place.
"This alarms us, because the pause has dragged on," the Interfax news agency quoted Ryabkov, who is the Russian negotiator, as saying. "As a nation and a member of the 'group of six', we are working actively to find a solution."
The European Union, which represents the powers, said last week that it had proposed a date to Iran but Western diplomatic sources said on Friday that Tehran had yet to respond.
One source suggested that the date the EU proposed was next Tuesday but said that was now unlikely.
"It is our understanding that Iran has not responded to the January 15 date," the diplomatic source said. Continued...