Iran, world powers begin new round of nuclear talks

MOSCOW -- Representatives of six world powers met here with Iranian officials for more than two hours Monday morning, discussing the Tehran regime's nuclear program, but the Iranians criticized the group and spoke gloomily about prospects for the talks.

In the third such meeting this year, the world powers -- Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and the United States -- again sought Iran's reaction to a proposal aimed at halting the most worrisome part of Iran's controversial nuclear program. But the Iranians complained that the world powers had not done enough to prepare for the meeting, and demanded again that the group recognize what the Iranians view as their right to enrich uranium.

An Iranian official told reporters that chances for progress at the talks appeared to be "minimal."

In another worrisome sign, the senior Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili, told representatives of the six powers that he needed to break off the talks at 6 p.m. local time to dine with Russian officials. Past meetings have usually gone later.

The morning session, taking place at a Moscow hotel, broke after 1 p.m. for lunch, with plans to resume for another session later in the afternoon.

Iran's complaints may be an attempt to deflect blame if the talks grind to a halt, or they could be no more than a negotiating maneuver. Iranian diplomats seemed ready to bargain at the first meeting this year, but turned sour at the second meeting when the six powers gave no ground on their demands.

A Western diplomat said the six hoped to create a "continuing process" of negotiations at the meeting and didn't expect either a breakdown or a breakthrough.

A senior European official said the six powers would add no sweeteners to their proposal. But another Western diplomat said there would be a new emphasis in their presentation concerning what they can do for Iran's sputtering economy.

The meetings come less than two weeks before the scheduled effective date for new sanctions against Iran from the United States and the European Union.

Western officials say it remains unclear whether the Iranian regime is willing to accept a damaged economy as the price of a nuclear weapons capability.

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-- Paul Richter

 
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