Iran, six powers start expert-level nuclear talks in Vienna

VIENNA Thu Apr 3, 2014 2:17pm EDT

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton leave a news conference in Vienna March 19, 2014. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton leave a news conference in Vienna March 19, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Heinz-Peter Bader

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VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran and six world powers began an expert-level meeting about Tehran's nuclear program on Thursday, part of efforts to reach an agreement by late July on how to resolve a decade-old dispute that has stirred fears of a Middle East war.

The meeting in Vienna of nuclear and other experts from Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Russia, China and Britain was to prepare for a new round of higher-level negotiations next week, also in the Austrian capital.

A spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton - whose office is coordinating contacts with Iran on behalf of the big powers - confirmed that the meeting had started but gave no details. Officials earlier said they were expected to last until Saturday.

The April 8-9 meeting of chief negotiators - including Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif - will be the third round of talks at that level since February.

The aim is to hammer out a long-term deal by July 20 that would define the permissible scope of Iran's nuclear program in return for a lifting of sanctions that are severely battering its oil-dependent economy.

Both sides have made clear their political commitment to reach a comprehensive agreement but officials acknowledge that success is far from guaranteed in view of decades of mutual mistrust and big differences over the issues involved.

The powers want Iran to significantly scale back its nuclear activities in order to deny it any capability of quickly diverting them to the production of a nuclear bomb, if it decided to "weaponize" its enrichment of uranium.

Iran says its enrichment program is a peaceful bid to generate electricity and has ruled out shutting any of its nuclear facilities. It denies having any nuclear bomb designs.

U.S. President Barack Obama, like his predecessors, has said that all options are on the table with regard to Iran's nuclear program, using diplomatic code for the possibility of military action if diplomacy fails to settle the dispute.

In November, Iran and the six nations agreed an interim accord to curb Tehran's atomic activities in exchange for some easing of sanctions. The six-month deal, which took effect on January 20, was designed to buy time for talks on a long-term deal.

Robert Einhorn, a former senior U.S. State Department official dealing with Iran, said the positions of the parties - especially the United States and Iran - remained far apart.

"Key differences exist on the requirements of an acceptable deal, not just among negotiators at the table but also among key players outside the negotiations," Einhorn said in a new report for the Brookings think-tank in Washington.

(Reporting by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Comments (5)
StephanLarose wrote:
Israel is the only illegal nuclear weapons state in the middle east, the sanctions should be on Israel. Iran has, to date, done absolutely nothing illegal. Their rights to the entire fuel cycle, including enrichment, are guaranteed under the NPT, the burden of proof that there is a military aspect to Iran’s program lies with the West, not Iran, as there simply is no way to prove the non-existence of a thing. It’s like saying “give me proof that there’s no such thing as the tooth fairy.” The proof should be that nobody’s ever seen the tooth fairy, but if someone asks for concrete evidence she doesn’t exist, how is that possible? It isn’t. The West are just stepping to the rhythm of Israel’s fiddle. As Israel is the primary antagonist in the middle east with its violent settlers committing daily war crimes of land theft in the occupied territories, with its illegal nuclear weapons program and threats to preemptively destroy Iran on the basis of little more than emotion, with its modern apartheid state, the West should be ashamed to be associated with Israel at all. Sanction and boycott Israel.

Apr 03, 2014 1:37pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
TruthFair wrote:
StephanLarose
Stupid comment. You have words diarrhea and thoughts constipation.

Apr 03, 2014 2:19pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
sabrefencer wrote:
iran balks, the EU talks, the Iranians walks (towards the bomb), the USA drinks malts…..and the world turns round and round

Apr 03, 2014 7:32pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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