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World Powers Begin New Round of Iran Talks with Little Hope for Progress

EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton meeting with Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili

EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton meeting with Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili
Photo Credit: IRNA

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Another round of nuclear talks began on Monday in Moscow, with diplomats representing the six-nation ‘P5+1′ (US, UK, France, China, Russia, and Germany) pessimistic that a breakthrough will occur in the ongoing stand-off with Iran over its controversial nuclear program.

Heading into this the third round of negotiations since talks resumed in April, EU spokesman Michael Mann said: “We haven’t seen engagement on the Iranian side yet. We’re not prepared to talk for the sake of talking, we need to drive things forward.”

Western diplomats continue to accuse Iran of foot-dragging and obfuscation, noting that the five-point proposal presented by the Islamic Republic in Baghdad last month calls for discussions on matters that are tangential to the nuclear issue. Yet the P5+1 continues to hold out hope that Iran will finally “engage seriously” the proposal that the six-nation bloc made last month. The proposal calls on Iran to stop enriching its uranium to 20% – which brings it close to the threshold of weapon’s grade. It offers Iran badly-needed spare parts for civilian airliners, medical isotopes, and nuclear safety cooperation as incentives to agreement. Iran’s negotiator, Saeed Jalili has already rejected these these terms as insufficient, and is demanding an immediate easing of current economic sanctions and suspension of the onerous sanctions set to be imposed by the EU next month. It appears the sides are headed for another fruitless round of talks though, as the EU indicated it has no intention of to postponing the sanctions.

An Iranian diplomat accompanying the Iranian delegation in Moscow told Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA that Iran would not even acquiesce to another round of negotiations unless the P5+1 accepts its proposal. The diplomat also elaborated on the uncompromising stance Iran would take in the negotiations: “The least expected by Iranian negotiators [...] is acknowledging Iran’s right to uranium enrichment. If they do not admit Iran’s right to nuclear enrichment in Moscow, therefore the talks will surely fail… Iran does not fear the failure of negotiations anyhow.”

The Obama administration is facing increasing pressure to break off with the Islamic regime in the face of continued Iranian intransigence. 44 senators sent the President a bi-partisan letter on Friday demanding actual concessions from Iran to continue negotiations.”It is past time for the Iranians to take the concrete steps that would reassure the world that their nuclear program is, as they claim, exclusively peaceful. Absent these steps, we must conclude that Tehran is using the talks as a cover to buy time as it continues to advance toward nuclear weapons capability.”

The letter, coordinated by Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), calls on Iran to implement the steps proposed by the P5+1 in Baghdad, which they said is the “absolute minimum” required to “demonstrate a level of commitment by Iran to the process and could justify continued discussions beyond the meeting in Moscow.” The letter is signed by, among others, Charles Schumer (D-NY), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

Meanwhile in Israel, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon Yaalon told Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Friday that if Israel has to choose between Iran having a nuclear bomb and bombing Iran, it will opt for the latter. He also said that Israel is not bluffing when it comes to decisive action to stop Iran and does not need an American ‘green light’ for a military strike. He predicted that the Iranian crisis will culminate in the coming months.

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