World powers and Iran made little progress on Monday at the first of two days of
talks in Moscow on how to end Tehran’s nuclear program.
“We had an
intense and tough exchange of views,” said Michael Mann, spokesman for European
Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton who leads the delegation on behalf
of the six powers – the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain and
Iran said before the talks began that progress would be possible
only if the powers acknowledged its right to enrich uranium.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on his website late on Sunday that Iran was ready to
suspend its enrichment of uranium up to 20 percent if Europe would give Iran
20%-enriched uranium fuel for its reactors.
One Israeli official scoffed
at the idea, saying that the world’s position needed to be that Iran must halt
all its enrichment, and not only enrichment to 20%. “Allowing Iran to continue
to enrich to 20% would be allowing them to continue marching toward a nuclear
weapon,” the official said.
“This would allow them to stabilize,
strengthen and expand their nuclear program, and would constitute a dangerous
A series of UN Security Council resolutions since 2006 have
demanded that Iran suspend all of its enrichment-related activities. Asking for
less than that now, the Israeli official said, would be giving the Iranians a
The world powers, the five permanent members of the UN Security
Council – all of which have nuclear weapons – plus Germany, said it was time for
Tehran to do more to assure them it was not seeking the bomb.
stumbling block is that the sides’ positions are rather difficult and tough to
reconcile,” Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister and chief nuclear
negotiator, told reporters at the end of the first day of talks in a Moscow
An Iranian diplomat said: “Up to now the environment is not
positive at all.”
One Western official said: “If Iran remains unwilling
to take the opportunities these talks present, it will face continuing and intensified pressure and
Experts said a breakthrough was unlikely, with the six powers
wary of making concessions that would enable Tehran to draw out the talks and
gain time to develop a nuclear weapons capability.
“So far, the Iranians
are deceiving the international community and progressing toward a nuclear
bomb,” one Israeli official said.
The official urged the world powers not
to lessen their demands on Tehran: “This is not time to climb down and make
concessions. The Iranian government is the one that needs to climb down and make
The Moscow talks follow two rounds of negotiations
since diplomacy resumed in April after a 15-month hiatus during which the West
cranked up sanctions pressure. It will be ratcheted up higher in the next two
weeks, as the US starts to implement a series of tough sanctions on Iran’s oil
clients, and the EU begins its embargo of Iranian oil.
As a priority, the
West wants the Islamic Republic to halt enrichment of uranium to 20% purity, a
level much higher than what is needed for power generation, seen by some experts
as a dangerous step toward being able to make bomb material.
seeking an end to the increasingly tough economic sanctions that have in recent
months directly targeted its ability to export oil, its economic
The six powers hope at least to win assurances that Tehran is
willing to discuss concrete solutions. They want to see a substantive Iranian
response to their previous offer of fuel supplies for Tehran’s research reactor
and relief in sanctions on the sale of commercial aircraft parts to
At the last talks in Baghdad last month, they asked that Tehran in
return stop producing higher-grade uranium, ship any stockpile out of the
country and close down the Fordow underground enrichment facility.
Iranian chief negotiator Saeed Jalili has indicated the incentives on offer are
insufficient, although EU officials said last week that he had agreed to give
serious consideration to the proposal.