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Russia warns that Iran nuclear talks too slow to forestall conflict

Russian is uniquely placed to mediate between Iran and world powers, but analysts say Moscow's role is limited in part by a lack of compromise from Washington and Tehran.

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Israel has repeatedly threatened military action to prevent Iran from achieving even the capability of making a nuclear weapon, much less an actual bomb, and demands that Iran halt all enrichment, permanently. It has decried the talks as a waste of time, while Iran continues to enrich uranium for what it declares are peaceful purposes.

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'Give up the practice of demonizing Iran'

Iran has repeatedly rejected nuclear weapons as un-Islamic, and US intelligence agencies believe that Iran has not made a decision to go for a bomb. Even if it did so, experts agree, Iran is still years away from making a deliverable device.

"One should give up the practice of demonizing Iran, which a number of Western countries have been doing for years already," says Igor Korotchenko, director of the Center for Analysis of World Arms Trade in Russia.

"There is no proof that Iran is carrying out a military nuclear program," said Mr. Korotchenko, speaking at a press conference of Iran experts a day after the Moscow talks ended. "There are suspicions and they stay suspicions. Despite so much attention of various [intelligence agencies], there is no proof. We still remember the situation in Iraq and fruitless searches for biological weapons in Saddam Hussein' palaces."

While Russia wants dialogue, Western nations "prefer to use more radical steps for the sake of saving the world," says Rajab Safarov, director of the Center for Studying Modern Iran.

"They do not want Iran to speak in any way as equals," Mr. Safarov said at the same event. "The West has driven itself into such a place that by 3 p.m. [on Tuesday] the talks were already over, and it was a failure."

A last-minute effort to save the Moscow round yielded the agreement a few hours later to hold the technical meeting only in Istanbul on July 3.

Moscow talks more successful than previous two rounds

The current round of talks between Iran and world powers began in Istanbul in April, after a 15-month hiatus. Atmospherics were good and signals from both sides were positive, prompting hope that a deal might halt Iran's most sensitive work – enrichment to 20 percent – in exchange for easing sanctions.

But the second round in Baghdad in May ended acrimoniously, as the P5+1 insisted that Iran halt all levels of enrichment – as required by UN Security Council resolutions – and offered no sanctions relief, which Tehran has demanded.

Also crucial for Iran is recognition of its right to enrich uranium, as spelled out in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

In Moscow, Iran detailed its views about the P5+1 package for the first time, but neither side shifted an inch.

"There were more results than in Istanbul and Baghdad, it's a small step forward," says Anton Khlopkov, director of the Center for Energy and Security Studies in Moscow. But as the process unfolds, it is also clear that other issues are at play.

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