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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran, World Powers to Meet Again on Nuclear Stalemate

April 03, 2013

by VOA News

The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany, are heading back Friday to Almaty, Kazakhstan, for talks with Iran over its nuclear program.

Western officials are hoping Tehran will react positively to their latest offer, made during the first round of talks in February, when the so-called P5+1 offered the possibility of easing some international sanctions. In return, Iran would have to suspend enrichment of high-grade uranium which could be used in an atomic bomb.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Wednesday she is "cautiously optimistic."

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Iran to prove its nuclear program is peaceful in order "to rejoin the community of nations, to get out from under this isolation."

The West and Israel say Iran is creeping closer to being able to produce a nuclear weapon, with current estimates giving Iran about a year until it has such capability. U.S. President Barack Obama has repeatedly warned that Washington "will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from getting the world's worst weapons."

Analysts say the question - as negotiators prepare to meet again this week - is just how much is Iran willing to give?

Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies says the Iranians have balked before.

“Let’s hope that they put something on the table that is more realistic than the plan that they submitted last summer when they asked for everything and offered very, very little," he said.

At last month's meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh signaled Tehran may only be willing to go so far.

"We are committed to continue our dialogue with the IAEA and this commitment has been unwavering," he said. "But at the same time we cannot give a blank check for our national security. No country would give a blank check."

Also potentially affecting the upcoming talks - and Iran's strategy - is the renewed saber-rattling from North Korea, which has threatened to "settle accounts" with the U.S.

“Iran gets some benefit from the North Korean spectacle just because it’s a reminder that the Iranians may be disagreeable in various aspects of their regime, they may be very difficult negotiators, but in comparison with the North Koreans this is a very rational and manageable process,” said Greg Thielmann, who is with the Arms Control Association.

Many analysts say the most that can be hoped for with Iran is yet more talks, though that will likely have to wait until after Iran's June elections.

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