(Adds chance talks may end early due to Ukraine crisis)
* Two sides working on nitty-gritty of nuclear talks
* Powers want long-term curbs on Iran's nuclear activity
* Iran wants complete removal of damaging economic sanctions
* Talks in Vienna go into second day, outcome unclear
* Final settlement in long nuclear standoff elusive for now
By Fredrik Dahl and Justyna Pawlak
VIENNA, Feb 19 Six world powers and Iran strived
at a second day of talks in Vienna on Wednesday to map out a
broad agenda for reaching a ambitious final settlement to the
decade-old standoff over Tehran's nuclear programme.
The United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and
Germany want a long-term agreement on the permissible scope of
Iran's nuclear activities to lay to rest concerns that they
could be put to developing atomic bombs. Tehran's priority is a
complete removal of damaging economic sanctions against it.
The negotiations will probably extend at least over several
months, and could help defuse years of hostility between
energy-exporting Iran and the West, ease the danger of a new war
in the Middle East, transform the regional power balance and
open up major business opportunities for Western firms.
"The talks are going surprisingly well. There haven't been
any real problems so far," a senior Western diplomat said,
dismissing rumours from the Iranian side that the discussions
had run into snags already.
The opening session on Tuesday was "productive" and
"substantive", they said. "The focus was on the parameters and
the process of negotiations, the timetable of what is going to
be a medium- to long-term process," one European diplomat said.
"We don't expect instant results."
A Wednesday morning session was chaired by a senior European
Union diplomat, Helga Schmid, and Iranian Deputy Foreign
Minister Abbas Araqchi, accompanied by senior diplomats from the
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who coordinates
official contacts with Iran on behalf of the six, was scheduled
to attend an extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers in
Brussels on the Ukraine crisis on Thursday afternoon.
The current Iran talks had originally been expected to run
for at least full three days but might be adjourned as early as
Thursday morning due to the escalating situation in Ukraine,
according to Western diplomats.
The six powers have yet to spell out their precise demands
of Iran. But Western officials have signalled they want Iran to
cap enrichment of uranium at a low fissile purity, limit
research and development of new nuclear equipment and
decommission a substantial portion of its centrifuges used to
Such steps, they believe, would help extend the time that
Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a bomb.
Tehran says its programme is peaceful and has no military aims.
Highlighting wide differences over expectations in the
talks, Araqchi was cited by Iran's English-language Press TV
state television on Tuesday as saying that any dismantling of
Iranian nuclear installations would not be up for negotiation.
The talks could also stumble over the future of Iran's
facilities in Arak, an unfinished heavy water reactor that
Western states worry could yield plutonium for bombs, and the
Fordow uranium enrichment plant, which was built deep
underground to ward off any threat of air strikes.
"Iran's nuclear sites will continue their activities like
before," the official IRNA news agency quoted Iranian Atomic
Energy Organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi saying.
LENGTHY PROCESS AHEAD
During a decade of on-and-off dialogue with world powers,
Iran has rejected Western allegations that it has been seeking a
nuclear weapons capability. It says it is enriching uranium only
for electricity generation and medical purposes.
As part of a final deal, Iran expects the United States, the
European Union and the United Nations to lift painful economic
sanctions on the oil-dependent economy. But Western governments
will be wary of giving up their leverage too soon.
Ahead of the talks, a senior U.S. official said getting to a
deal would be a "complicated, difficult and lengthy process".
"When the stakes are this high, and the devil is truly in
the details, one has to take the time required to ensure the
confidence of the international community in the result," the
official said. "That can't be done in a day, a week, or even a
month in this situation."
On the eve of the Vienna round, both sides played down
anticipation of early progress, with Iran's Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei saying he was not optimistic.
The six powers hope to get a deal done by late July, when an
interim accord struck in November expires.
That agreement, made possible by the election of relative
moderate President Hassan Rouhani on a platform of relieving
Iran's international isolation by engaging constructively with
its adversaries, obliged Tehran to suspend higher-level
enrichment in return for some relief from economic sanctions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, also quoted
by Press TV on Tuesday, sounded an optimistic note. "It is
really possible to make an agreement because of a simple
overriding fact and that is that we have no other option."
(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi and Louis Charbonneau in
Vienna; Editing by Mark Heinrich)