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Movement in nuclear talks, but onus on Iran: UN chief

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday that the ball remained in Iran's court over its contested nuclear programme, though he was encouraged by new feelers being put out by Tehran and the West.

"I am encouraged that, at their recent talks in Almaty, the P5+1 and Iran agreed on dates and venues for further meetings soon," Ban told reporters in Geneva.

"The onus remains on Iran to gain the confidence and trust of the international community," he added.

The P5+1 refers to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France -- plus Germany who are negotiating with Iran.

Their talks have long been deadlocked, with Iran rejecting Western claims that it aims to arm itself with atomic weapons and says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.

But a two-day session this week in Kazakhstan's economic capital Almaty yielded an agreement to meet again at the level of senior civil servants on March 17-18 in Istanbul, and then with chief negotiators in Almaty on April 5-6.

The meeting saw the P5+1 offer Iran a softening of non-oil or financial sector-related sanctions in exchange for concessions over Tehran's sensitive uranium enrichment operations.

The offer reportedly involves easing crippling sanctions on Iran's gold and precious metals trade and lifting some very small banking operations.

In return, it demands a tougher weapons inspection regime and the interruption of enrichment operations at the feared Fordo bunker facility where enrichment goes on.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130301/movement-nuclear-talks-onus-iran-un-chief