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U.S. official says no "breakdown" in Iran nuclear talks

ALMATY (Reuters) - A senior U.S. official said on Saturday there had been no breakdown in nuclear negotiations with Iran, and that the major powers pressing Iran to curb its nuclear program intended to continue with diplomacy.

Speaking after two days of talks in the Kazakh city of Almaty produced no breakthrough, the official said the six powers needed time to decide how best to approach the dispute, which threatens to trigger into a new Middle East war.

"There was no breakthrough but also no breakdown," the official, who declined to be identified, told reporters after the two-day meeting ended.

The official suggested the six nations - the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany - were unlikely to change their negotiating stance for now, which they see as "fair and balanced".

They are asking Iran to suspend its most sensitive uranium-enrichment efforts in return for modest sanctions relief, an offer Iran did not accept in Almaty, because of concerns that it may be seeking to achieve the ability to build an atom bomb. Iran says its nuclear program is purely peaceful.

The official said Iran could be subjected to more economic sanctions in the future, as Western governments seek to step up pressure, but that there were some positive signs in the Almaty talks.

"Our exchanges were more natural and free-flowing than they had been in the past talks," the official said.

(Reporting by Justyna Pawlak and Yeganeh Torbati; writing by Fredrik Dahl and Justyna Pawlak; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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