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Iran nuclear talks: negotiators cite progress ahead of Baghdad meeting

Two days of UN-IAEA talks in Vienna signal some flexibility on both sides ahead of key nuclear meeting in Baghdad next week.

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Amano has said that “activities” at the suspect site mean the IAEA should visit soon. Recently published satellite images appear to show a stream of water, which some analysts suggest could be Iranian attempts to “sanitize” the site. Iran has dismissed the claims as a “joke.”

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Preparations for the critical Baghdad meeting are currently being conducted in secret between deputy nuclear negotiators, the European Union's Helga Schmid and Iran's Ali Bagheri.

Cooling the heated rhetoric

Escalating tensions toward war, fanned especially by Israeli leaders and conservative US politicians, eased last month when Iran met for the first time in 15 months in Istanbul, Turkey, with the United States, Russia, China, England, France, and Germany, a group known as the P5+1.

The result was a "useful and constructive" agreement to resolve questions about Iran's nuclear efforts with a "step-by-step approach and reciprocity," said Catherine Ashton, the P5+1 chief negotiator.

For Iran, that means recognition of its right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, and lifting of economically crippling sanctions.

For the P5+1, that means Iran halting its 20 percent-level enrichment (which is a few technical steps away from weapons grade of 90 percent), accepting a host of IAEA inspection measures, and resolving questions about possible past weapons-related work.

The political signals suggest compromise, and building on the unexpectedly positive energy of Istanbul.

"If the same positive atmosphere and the cooperation approach [in Istanbul] reigns [in Baghdad], we can see positive results in the upcoming talks," Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told Fars News today.

Indeed, such optimism may be at its highest since an EU-Iran process broke up years ago, says Jenkins, the former ambassador to the IAEA.

"I think the Iranian side is more together and more capable of coming to an agreement than at any time since 2005," says Jenkins. While "optimistic," he says, he remains "very vigilant and worried because there is no doubt to me there is a whole army of spoilers out there."

Both sides say they're negotiating from strength

Both sides have portrayed themselves as talking from a position of strength – a crucial calculation that points toward progress.

On one side, Western politicians declare that ever-tightening sanctions, like those on Iran's central bank and oil exports (a European oil embargo is set to begin July 1) have forced Iran to negotiate.


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