Middle East

Suspicions hang over Iran nuclear talks

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to IAEA (08/06/12)
Image caption So far, talks between Iran and the West have produced few results

Looming threats of military strikes and tougher economic sanctions have pushed Iran and the world powers gathered in Moscow to seek amicable ways of dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The latest talks come after two rounds of negotiations in Istanbul and Baghdad. Iranians are coming under a lot of pressure from the US and its allies to stop enriching uranium to 20% - seen as being just steps away from weapons-grade - and ship out its existing stock, and also to shut its nuclear Fordo site.

However the West does not guarantee that these actions - if taken by Iran - will lead to the quick lifting of sanctions. This has made some Iranian officials suspicious to the intentions of the West regarding Iran's nuclear plans.

"Enjoying the peaceful nuclear technology is Iran's inalienable right and the nuclear negotiating team, considering its good performance so far, does not have the right to offer any concession or compromise to the West," Ali Larijani, Iran's Majlis (parliament) Speaker, said.

He said the West acted "deceitfully" in the negotiations with Iran, adding that the P5+1 (US, UK, France, Germany, China and Russia) was divided over its approach towards Tehran's nuclear energy programme.

"On the one hand, the P5+1 expresses readiness for talks and stresses negotiations on a logical basis, while on the other, they secretly seek more sanctions and radical behaviour, which shows that there is a division among the members of the group," he added.

Western 'plot'

While Iran expects its right to nuclear technology - including uranium enrichment based on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) conventions - to be "officially recognised and respected", some Iranian radical figures believe that negotiations will bear no results for the country.

Esmail Kowsari, a prominent MP close to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, seems quite confident that the next round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 in Moscow will not benefit Iran "because the three Western countries on the group are threatening Iran and Tehran will never give in to pressure.

"I should say with certainty that these negotiations will bring no result for the country," he said.

It seems that Iranians are getting ready to blame the failure of the upcoming talks on the West.

Mohsen Rezai, former head of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and current secretary of the Expediency Council, has accused Western countries of plotting to ensure the failure of the ongoing P5+1 talks on Iran's nuclear programme.

"A suspicious move by some Western countries, Israel and a country in the region, through obstruction and sabotage, try to lead Iran and 5+1 talks to failure. America is also looking to blame Iran for the failure of the talks," he said.

Economic confrontation

Iran's nuclear activities have led to increasingly tough Western sanctions on Iran, including an EU oil embargo from 1 July.

Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi has warned the European Union that its citizens will bear the brunt of the bloc's oil sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

"In the past and before the oil sanctions against Iran, we warned the countries imposing them that they themselves will be harmed by the embargoes, and, unfortunately, now the European people are living under pressure," he told reporters in Vienna, where a conference of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) was under way.

But Pedram Soltani, deputy chairman of the Iran Chamber of Commerce, warns "with every passing day, the economic fruits are becoming sweeter and riper for our rivals".

"Under such circumstances, our negotiators must pay serious attention to the fact that the importance of an economic confrontation between Iran and its rival countries is superseding the importance of a political confrontation," he said.

Westerners do their best to show Iran this is that "last chance" meeting, but in Iran many officials generally avoid using that expression for these rounds of talks.

But the Moscow talks may be turning into a showdown - and may give rise to more complexity in an already agitated Middle East.

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