Ashton meets with Saeed Jalili in Moscow
Ashton meets with Saeed Jalili in MoscowReuters

Iran and world powers locked horns on Monday in hours of tense talks in Moscow seeking a diplomatic solution to the crisis over Tehran's nuclear program, but there was no breakthrough.

AFP reported that during the talks, billed as a last chance to find hope of a negotiated solution to the decade-long standoff, the West was looking for signs that Iran could show willingness to scale down the intensity of its uranium enrichment activities.

A member of the Iranian delegation gave a downbeat assessment well into the second session in the afternoon, telling AFP, “So far the atmosphere is not positive. Setting up the framework (for negotiation) is the main problem.”

The Iranian diplomat added that based on the morning's talks “it is possible” that the second day would not even be required, without elaborating.

Chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili had gone into the talks in uncompromising mood, telling Iranian state television, “These negotiations are a big test to see if the West is in favor of Iran's progress or against.”

A spokesman for the EU delegation to the talks told reporters that world powers were sticking by a previous demand for Iran to halt enriching uranium to 20 percent -- a level approaching that needed to make an atomic bomb.

The world powers are the P5+1 – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany. Jalili also held a bilateral meeting with the EU's Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and was due to hold another with Russian envoys later, AFP reported.

The talks follow a bruising session in Baghdad in May that failed to make any noticeable progress beyond agreeing a date for more talks, an outcome that may not be acceptable to the West if repeated in Moscow.

In a hint of compromise, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday that Iran is ready to suspend its controversial enrichment of uranium to 20 percent if Europe guarantees delivery of nuclear fuel for its reactors.

Ahmadinejad previously accused major world powers of looking for ways to “find excuses and to waste time” in talks.

Israeli President Shimon Peres said in an interview on CNN on Monday that “time is running out” for Iran. “You cannot provoke the world, assuming the world is made of fools only," Peres told the network.