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Iran Nuclear Talks End in Deadlock

After more than five hours of negotiations, the latest round of high-powered talks aimed at resolving Iran's nuclear program, once again, have ended in deadlock. Despite the first-ever presence of a senior U.S. official at the negotiating table, no progress has been made in settling this contentious issue. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from the conference site in Geneva.

European Union Foreign Minister, Javier Solana described the daylong negotiations as generally constructive. But, he admitted that Iran had not given a clear answer to a Western proposal to provide economic and diplomatic incentives in return for Iran freezing its nuclear activities. "Now, I hope very much that after the debate and a change of views, Dr. Jalili will go back to Teheran and will inform the authorities to see if we can get a positive answer. It would be very important, say in a couple of weeks. I am looking forward to that. And, I hope very much that that will be the case," he said.

A lot of excitement and hope preceded this current round of talks because, for the first time, a senior US official sat at the negotiating table.

Analysts view this as a significant shift in policy by the Bush Administration.

Previously, Washington had insisted that Teheran stop its uranium enrichment program as a precondition to face-to-face talks. But, in an apparent about face, US Under Secretary of State, William Burns was dispatched to take part in Saturday's meeting.

Although nothing concrete emerged from the talks, Solana said Burns presence alone was an important contribution to the negotiations. "It was very important that everybody notes in Iran the important meeting of today from the point of view of the composition of the table. You remember that we presented in Teheran three documents--a letter, a package and a way forward and it was signed by all the leaders of the countries represented. Today, physically, all the countries had been represented. So, it is very, very important and everybody has to be aware of that," he said.

Representatives from Britain, china, France, Germany and Russia were at the table in addition to the EU, Iranian and US envoys.

At the meeting, Iran presented a long paper of, what Solana called modalities. He said it offered no reply to the Western proposal. But, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Saeed Jalili, said the package contained many positive ideas.

He said he would give Javier Solana an answer on Teheran's willingness to accept the West's proposals in two weeks, either by telephone or in person.