WASHINGTON – Diplomats from six world powers arrived in Moscow on Sunday facing a double challenge: to coax concessions from Iran over its disputed nuclear program and to keep the negotiations from collapsing if Tehran refuses.
After two previous rounds, the U.S. and other negotiators preparing for talks today and Tuesday still don’t understand Iran’s intentions. They say Tehran continues to send confusing signals about whether it is willing to compromise. The alternative is more talk of war and an oil shock to the world economy.
The longer the diplomacy drags on, the more Iran will suffer from sanctions – but, at the same time, the more uranium it can enrich.
Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, promised European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton this month that Iran would address a proposal for an interim deal that would require Iran immediately to suspend enrichment of uranium to a purity that could be converted relatively easily for use in nuclear bombs.
Jalili ignored the proposal when he met last month in Baghdad with the six negotiating powers – Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the U.S. – so his comment was seen as a sign of a potential breakthrough at the Moscow talks.
Yet Jalili also told the legislature in Tehran that Iran won’t compromise on its right to enrich uranium. He said he expected the six powers to address a list of Iranian grievances on topics unrelated to the nuclear program, a nonstarter for Washington and its allies.
In another troubling sign, Iran this month hit an impasse with the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, over a proposed deal that would have allowed the agency to broaden its often-frustrated inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities.