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Iran nuclear talks yield only one agreement: Let's meet again

Absent from the five marathon sessions in Moscow over Iran's nuclear program were any new incentives, from either side, to signal that compromise is imminent or even possible.

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"We did not put on the table significant sanctions relief," said a senior US administration official. Instead sanctions would be "ongoing and intensifying" as US measures targeting Iran's central bank and a European oil embargo come into force next week.

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"All of our sanctions will go into effect on July 1, and there will be further sanctions to come, so our dual-track policy is not changing," said the senior US official. "Because we are in negotiations, the second track, the pressure track, is not stopping because in fact they haven't taken any concrete action."

"The choice is Iran's ... to decide whether it is willing to make diplomacy work," said Ms. Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief who represents the P5+1, at the close of talks.

Iran's position

The Iranians, in their turn, say it is the P5+1 that must act first, to reassure Iranians that their rights under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty  [NPT] will be respected, and that sanctions relief will come in exchange for concessions.

"They have the option to take the right choice," Mr. Jalili, the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, told journalists after the talks. "Today they are facing a great test, in order to obtain the confidence of the Iranian people. Today they are ... at a juncture of deciding to come out of the deadlock and take steps that lead to cooperation."

Jalili said the P5+1 in these talks were "more objective, more serious, and more realistic," compared to the rancorous round in Baghdad last month that nearly collapsed.

He repeated Iran's rejection of nuclear weapons, and said documents had been presented that "prove" that UNSC intervention in Iran's nuclear dossier was "illegal from our point of view."

"Enrichment of uranium for peaceful purposes in all levels is an inalienable right," Jalili said. "Positive and constructive" negotiations could only proceed if "reciprocal and balanced steps" were taken, he added, and the "aggressive attitude" toward Iran eased.

Who will budge first?

Diplomats close to the talks, on both sides, said afterward that it was not yet clear – after the third round of high-level negotiations this year – which side might budge first.

"We don't want a crisis or collapse of talks," said one Western diplomat. He said that not all of Iran's engagement was positive, and that Iran did not specifically say what steps it was willing to take regarding easing concerns about its 20 percent enriched uranium, which is a few steps away from weapons grade.


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