Iran nuclear talks with US, other powers stall in Vienna
A round of talks on Iran's nuclear program in Vienna, at which the US and other powers were hoping to nail down a deal, faltered on Tuesday.
Iranian negotiators played it tough on the second day of "brass tacks" talks on their nuclear program Tuesday. Some diplomats had been hoping for a breakthrough, with a deal sealed to send a large portion of Iran's nuclear fuel abroad for further processing. Instead, Iran appeared to shift the playing field.Skip to next paragraph
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In particular, the Iranian delegation objected to French participation in the plan to ship nuclear fuel out of the country -- something that Iran had appeared to agree to at the start of October -- and delayed the formal meeting all day.
Finally in the evening, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohammed Elbaradi managed to coax Iranian officials to a set of intensive talks with the US, and later on they met with all of the delegations for a round of negotiations that remained inconclusive by 10 pm.
Mr. Elbaradi, who leaves office next month, is thought to see the historic talks as part of his legacy. On Tuesday he said only that nuclear negotiations were "making progress" and that a deal is still "possible." He didn't elaborate further.
The Vienna negotiations are part of the Obama administration's strategy to give Iran a chance to abide by international rules designed to limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Though Iran insists that its nuclear program is only for civilian power, the White House has given Iran a finite amount of time to show "good faith" following a historic Oct. 1 Geneva meeting that saw the US and Iran meet directly for the first time in decades, as a senior US diplomat put it. US
"We want to see if the Iranians can move past the general to the specific," a Western diplomat in Vienna said. President Barack Obama stands to benefit greatly if concrete concessions can be negotiated, though analysts say Iran can also benefit if it averts sanctions.
White House critics
Tuesday's delay in progress may fuel critics of President Obama's engagement strategy at home. Hard-liners like former United Nation's Ambassador John Bolton have called the talks "naïve" and charge that Iran is only playing for time, with no interest in acquiescing to additional safe-guards on its nuclear program.
There was definitely some foot dragging. Delegates from Russia, Iran, the US and France entered the main meeting room at the IAEA center in Vienna at 10 am, but they walked out shortly thereafter, with the delegations retreating to the warren of rooms underneath the main hall, signalling an impasse. Talks were set to reconvene at noon, then 1 pm, then 4:30, then 7, and then 8 – and did not resume until 8:30.
In the Geneva agreement, Russia would reprocess most of Iran's stock of low-enriched uranium (LEU) into a highly enriched form that could power a nuclear reactor but is still well below the point at which it could fuel a nuclear bomb. The material would then be shipped to France, which would convert it into fuel rods that Iran says it needs to run an aging reactor in Tehran that was built with US assistance in the 1970s and produces nuclear material for medicine and other civilian uses.