Iran and world powers have failed to resolve differences over the country's nuclear programme and agreed only to hold a technical follow-up meeting in Istanbul on July 3, according to the European Union foreign policy chief .

Catherine Ashton, who led the delegation representing the US, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany at two days of talks in Moscow, said in Moscow on Tuesday that significant differences remained between the two sides.

"The choice is Iran's. We expect Iran to decide whether it is willing to make diplomacy work to focus on concrete confidence-building steps and to address the concerns of the international community," Ashton said after the close of the talks on Tuesday.

"But there's a very, very long way to go."

She also said the follow-up meeting would focus purely on technical details rather than broader political issues.

"In this round of negotiations, the discussions were more direct, more serious and more realistic

- Saeed Jalili

Reassurances

"We are hopeful that the technical meeting ... can reach acceptable conclusions and give proposals so that Ms Ashton and I can reach a decision regarding the time and place for the next negotiations," Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili told reporters.

Despite the failure of the Moscow talks to ease Western powers' concerns that Tehran's nuclear energy programme hides
ambitions to develop an atomic bomb, Jaili said that during these round of negotiations, "the discussions were more direct, more serious and more realistic."

Jalili also reiterated that there was no reason to doubt the peaceful aims of Tehran's nuclear programme and said UN
Security Council resolutions against Iran were "illegal." 

The six powers want Iran to stop enriching uranium to levels that bring it closer to acquiring weapons-grade material, but Iran has demanded relief from economic sanctions and an acknowledgement that it has the right to enrich uranium.

If negotiations fail to bring a solution, anxiety could grow on financial markets over the danger of higher oil prices and conflict in the Middle East as Israel has threatened to attack Iranian nuclear sites if diplomacy fails to stop Iran from getting the bomb, something Iran denies it is seeking.

Source: Agencies