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Nuclear talks resume: Iran looking for respect and reciprocity

The third round of nuclear talks begins tomorrow in Moscow between Iran and the P5+1 group of the US, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany.

By Staff writer / June 17, 2012



Moscow

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, arrived in Moscow today for critical talks with world powers, flying economy class with his team on Russia's state airline, Aeroflot.

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Mr. Jalili projects a “common man” image, but upon his shoulders may rest the high-stakes result of the third round of nuclear talks, which begins tomorrow in Moscow.

Expectations are low that Iran and the P5+1 group (the United States, Russia, ChinaBritainFrance, and Germany) can strike a deal that will at once permanently prevent any Iranian push for an atomic bomb and preserve for Iran most of its advanced nuclear program.

Hopes raised in Istanbul, Turkey, in April were set back in Baghdad in May, when the P5+1 initial proposal went much further than Iran expected. It required Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment and give up entirely on higher-level enrichment, with no immediate easing of tough economic sanctions.

Since then, acrimonious exchanges and demands by politicians opposed to compromise in both the US and Iran, have made a breakthrough here even less likely.

Iranian diplomats charge that the P5+1 offer violated the framework agreed in Istanbul of a reciprocal, step-by-step exchange of concessions. P5+1 officials counter that Iran must first agree to take "concrete" action in Moscow.

But analysts say Iran's perception that it is being forced to accept a lopsided offer is unacceptable to the psychology of its leadership – and risks a collapse of the talks that could lead to military strikes by Israel or the US.

"You have this classic case of asymmetry," says John Limbert, a veteran diplomat who was US deputy assistant secretary of State for Iran until 2010.

"We're talking about one thing, all these legal and technical issues; and the Iranians are talking about their place in the world, their rights, their sovereignty," says Mr. Limbert. "We just talk past each other. And both sides come away saying, 'They are not listening to us.'"

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