Iran, world powers fail to clinch deal at nuclear talks

GENEVA (AFP) - Iran and world powers have failed to clinch a deal on Teheran's disputed nuclear programme despite intensive negotiations but will meet again on November 20 for fresh talks, officials said Sunday.

"The meetings in Geneva have made it possible to move forward, but we have not yet managed to conclude (a deal), because there are still some questions remaining to be dealt with," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said after talks broke up.

EU diplomatic chief Catherine Ashton said there had been "three days of intense and constructive discussions" but that Teheran and the P5+1 group of world powers would have to meet again.

"A lot of concrete progress has been achieved but some issues remain," she said, adding: "Our objective is to reach a conclusion and that's what we'll come back to try to do." Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he was not discouraged despite the failure of the talks.

"I'm not disappointed at all because the meeting we just had, very long, running after midnight, was a good meeting," Mr Zarif said. "We are working together and hopefully we will be able to reach an agreement when we meet again." Mr Fabius insisted France wanted an agreement, despite claims from some officials that Paris had stymied efforts to reach a deal.

"France wanted from the start to reach a deal on this important Iranian nuclear question," he said, adding of the next meeting: "We hope at that time to be able to conclude an agreement." Teheran and the six world powers had gathered in Geneva for talks that had raised hopes of finally reaching a deal in the decade-old standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

After stretching into a third day on Saturday, talks had continued into the early hours of Sunday, with Mr Zarif joining ministers from the six powers for a last-ditch effort.

A source close to Mr Fabius said the two sides had moved forward, but not enough.

"There has been progress but there is still work to be done to reach an agreement," the source said.

The US, British, French, German and Russian foreign ministers had rushed to Geneva to join the talks amid hopes of a breakthrough.

The P5+1 group includes the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - plus Germany.

The purported deal on the table could have seen Iran freeze parts of its nuclear programme in exchange for the easing of some of the sanctions that have battered its economy.

The world powers in the talks suspect Iran's programme is aimed at developing nuclear weapons, despite Teheran's repeated denials.

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