World powers watch IAEA talks for signs of Iranian flexibility (+video)
Today's meeting between Iran and the IAEA to set up a framework to investigate a controversial Iranian military site is also seen as a warmup for Moscow talks later this month.
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Middle East Editor
Ariel Zirulnick is the Monitor's Middle East editor, overseeing regional coverage both for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She is also a contributor to the international desk's terrorism and security blog.
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World powers will be watching closely today as Iran and the United Nations nuclear watchdog meet in Vienna, looking for signs of how their own talks with the Islamic Republic later this month might go.
If Iran appears willing in today's meeting to make concessions, it could be a sign that they will approach talks in Moscow on June 18 with a more conciliatory attitude, making it possible that the Islamic Republic and the "P5 + 1" ( (the permanent five members of the UN Security Council: the US, Britain, France, Russia, China, plus Germany) will be able to find some common ground.
Last month's anticipated P5 + 1 talks with Iran in Baghdad began with high hopes but ended with little concrete progress, and so far there's been no indication either side is willing to back down from its irreconcilable starting points. Iran has requested an easing of strict sanctions in order for talks to go forward, while Western powers are requesting that it reduce its nuclear fuel production for "some modest givebacks, such as spare airplane parts," which are currently blocked by sanctions, according to the Associated Press.
With today's talks, the International Atomic Energy Agency is hoping to secure an agreement to allow immediate inspections of the Parchin military complex, where the agency suspects that tests related to nuclear weapons development took place. Iran insists the accusations are "forged and fabricated," Reuters reports.
Both the IAEA and Iran say they've laid out the terms for the investigation, but the US is skeptical that Iran will actually permit the level of investigation needed to reassure it that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapons program, Reuters reports.
"I'm not optimistic," Robert Wood, the acting U.S. envoy to the IAEA, told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of the U.N. agency's governing board. "I certainly hope that an agreement will be reached but I'm not certain Iran is ready."