BRUSSELS, Mar 3 (AFP): European Union powers and Iran failed Friday to strike a deal in last-ditch talks on Tehran's suspect nuclear programme ahead of a crunch UN meeting that could open the way to punitive action.
Time is running out, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after the talks in Vienna with Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani.
If we want success we have to act now, he added. He said the talks were carried out in a constructive atmosphere but finally we were unable to reach agreement.
Friday's talks came ahead of a March 6 meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog, which is to make an assessment of Iran's nuclear programme that will be sent to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.
There had appeared little room for compromise, with Tehran insisting on its right to enrich uranium and Europe and the United States saying Iran must give up the process, which makes nuclear reactor fuel but also atom bomb material.
Unfortunately, we could not obtain an agreement with Mr Larijani, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said following the talks at the German ambassador's residence in Vienna.
Also present at the hurriedly-arranged meeting, which had been requested by Larijani, was European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and a British official representing Foreign Minister Jack Straw, who was ill.
The EU troika earlier this week warned Tehran in writing that progress was totally dependent on Iran stopping uranium enrichment and cooperating with UN nuclear inspections.
Anything short of this would result in a public disagreement, which would set back our shared objectives, according to a letter from the trio's foreign ministers and Solana obtained by AFP.