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World Powers Offered Iran Relief on Gold Trade in Nuclear Talks

The world powers holding talks with Iran on its nuclear program offered to ease sanctions on precious metals trade as part of an accord, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.

“All that was in the Almaty package has remained, including the possibility to cancel the prohibition for precious metals trade,” Ryabkov said in an interview in the Kazakhstan capital, where the talks concluded today. He didn’t elaborate.

Representatives of the world powers and Iran ended the latest two-day round of nuclear talks without setting a date or location for another one. The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said “wide differences” remain.

Curbs on precious metals are part of the sanctions on energy and finance imposed by the United Nations, U.S. and European Union in order to restrict Iran’s nuclear program, on the grounds it may be trying to build atomic weapons. The U.S. and Israel have threatened military strikes to achieve that goal if diplomacy doesn’t work. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.

Iran’s gold imports, especially from Turkey, surged after the imposition of financial sanctions made it difficult for the country to obtain dollars and other hard currencies.

Iran has been buying gold in Turkey with cash it received from sales of natural gas to its neighbor, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said in November. The U.S. Senate voted later that month to include precious metals in a further round of restrictions on Iran, and exports from Turkey have declined since then.

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