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Terrorism & Security

High stakes for Iran nuclear talks

This weekend is seen as Tehran's best opportunity to make concessions on the Iran nuclear program if it is has any intention of doing so.

By Staff writer / April 13, 2012

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The stakes are high as Iran prepares to meet six world powers for nuclear talks in Istanbul this weekend, but the meetings will be considered a success if all parties agree merely to keep talking.

How Iran approaches these negotiations will be a good indicator of how successful sanctions have been at convincing its leadership to make concessions on its nuclear program, which the international community suspects is designed not only for nuclear power but also nuclear weapons, the L.A. Times reports. Western officials say that this weekend is Iran's best opportunity to scale back its recalcitrance if it is has any intention of doing so. As sanctions bite harder in coming months, it will become more difficult for Iran's leaders to explain a compromise with the West.

As the Los Angeles Times sums it up, the outcome of the talks could determine the likelihood of nuclear war, the global economic recovery, and the 2012 US presidential election. But diplomats just need to find enough agreement between the world powers (known as P5+1) and Iran to keep talks going beyond the weekend. It appeared less than certain that the talks would even happen until a week ago.

They [the P5+1] have set a modest goal for Istanbul: They want to see if Iran shows enough interest in cooperation to justify a second meeting, probably in Baghdad in a few weeks, where negotiations could begin in earnest.

Western diplomats will look for a sign in Istanbul that Iran would take limited "confidence-building" steps to slow its expanding and semi-hidden [uranium] enrichment program. The ultimate goals are full disclosure of Iran's nuclear efforts and stronger controls through the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, in return for nuclear assistance and other aid.

Bloomberg reports that the P5+1 might use the European Union oil embargo, scheduled to begin July 1, as leverage. It could offer to stay that embargo, as well as lift any of the four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions currently in place. In exchange, said a former British ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency who hosted previous negotiations, the powers might request that Iran cap the production of 20 percent enriched uranium, which takes only a matter of months to turn into weapons-grade uranium.


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