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New 'ideas,' not proposals, emerge at Iran nuclear talks

June 19, 2012 |  4:28 am

MOSCOW -- Russian diplomats have offered "ideas" that may breathe life into the sputtering international talks over Iran's nuclear program, an Iranian official said Tuesday.

The official, a member of the Iranian delegation to the international discussions underway here, said the Russian ideas might be able to narrow differences between Iran and six leading world powers negotiating with Tehran on acceptable limits on the nuclear program.

The official said the Russian offerings were not formal proposals, but only "ideas." A second Iranian official described the Russian ideas as preliminary.

The yawning gaps between the sides were apparent Monday when Iran's chief negotiator harshly criticized the six powers' proposal in a lengthy session.

Yet all the powers have reasons to want to avoid a breakdown in the talks, and many analysts believe the most likely result of this gathering is another, later meeting to continue the inconclusive discussions.

A breakdown could upset nervous oil markets and revive talk in Israel about the need for a military strike to destroy Iran's nuclear complex, which they fear is aimed at building a bomb.

Russia has a special incentive to want these talks to appear successful, because the meetings are in Moscow and Russia has influence with its neighbor.

Russian officials dined last night with Iran's chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili. This morning, Jalili's deputy had a one-on-one meeting with Russia's deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov.

Ryabkov told reporters Monday evening that Jalili's lengthy critique of the six powers' plan raised many questions that merited discussion by the group.

Yet the scheduling of another meeting with little sign of progress will likely expose the Obama administration to criticism from U.S. lawmakers and Israeli officials who fear Iran is using the talks to buy time.

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-- Paul Richter

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