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Iran nuclear talks in Moscow may be delayed, say diplomats

Two diplomats close to the Iran nuclear talks, one Iranian and one European, each explain to the Monitor the frustrations and concerns that could delay the June 18-19 talks.

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Diplomats from both sides claim that they have gone out of the way to accommodate the other in the interest of successful talks. But they also claim that they have "got nothing but some vague replies" (says the Iranian diplomat) or come up against "obfuscation" and "increasing negativity" (says a European diplomat in Brussels familiar with the talks).

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In the past week there have been two direct calls between Bagheri and Schmid, notes the European diplomat. Since late May, five letters have been exchanged and "we have offered for at least a week a direct call between Ashton and Jalili, which they dragged their feet on."

Says the European diplomat: "Every effort has been aimed at ensuring that we reach out ... that we offer calls at a high level, that we communicate in every which way we can, [so] it is absurd to somehow shift the blame for an outcome in Moscow on a supposed unwillingness on our part [to engage]."

Iranian officials, in their turn, argue that it is they who are reaching out.

The Iranians "want ... to show that they are the ones who are interested in cooperating, and I believe highlighting the telephone conversations and sending letter after letter is just proof that they want to show the world that they are keen on talking and the P5+1 is the one refraining," says the Iranian diplomat.

"When Bagheri wrote in his letter that if they are not getting ready for the Moscow talks they should expect failure, [this] was paving the way ... to say to the world that we did send them the message and they ... ignored it," says the Iranian diplomat.

P5+1 talks in Europe today and tomorrow

The top US negotiator in the nuclear talks, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, was scheduled to join other P5+1 officials for strategy talks in Strasbourg, France, today and tomorrow.

The US State Department said the meeting was part of “serious preparation” for Moscow, to enable “the diplomatic track to succeed.”

Besides the squabbling over preparations for Moscow is a more fundamental issue for Iran: the substance of the P5+1 opening bid put forward in Baghdad in late May, which Tehran says amounted to "failure."

In that proposal, Iran was asked to give up uranium enrichment to 20 percent purity – a level it has been converting into fuel plates for a research reactor, but which is technically not far from weapons-grade of 90 percent.

Iran was also asked to close the deeply buried Fordow facility, where the 20 percent enrichment work is currently under United Nations nuclear watchdog safeguards, and to agree to more intrusive inspections.

'Iran has lowered the tone and increased the volume'

But another demand was that Iran suspend all enrichment, as required by UN resolutions until it clears up questions of any weapons-related work.

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