Iran Nuclear NewsIranians offer gloomy outlook of nuclear talks

Iranians offer gloomy outlook of nuclear talks

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Washington Post: Prominent Iranian politicians and analysts are offering a gloomy assessment of upcoming nuclear talks with the United States and other world powers, insisting that Iran will not agree to any significant cuts to its nuclear program.
The Washington Post

By Thomas Erdbrink and Joby Warrick

TEHRAN — Prominent Iranian politicians and analysts are offering a gloomy assessment of upcoming nuclear talks with the United States and other world powers, insisting that Iran will not agree to any significant cuts to its nuclear program.

The elected officials and analysts — many of them close to Iran’s hard-line leadership — say it is highly unlikely that Iran would accept even a temporary halt in its production of enriched uranium, a key demand by Western countries during previous negotiations with the Islamic republic.

Some said recent economic sanctions and military threats have made Iranian leaders even more determined to continue enriching uranium, despite the worsening toll on Iran’s currency and oil industry.

“There will be no retreat whatsoever on our rights,” said Hossein Sheikholeslami, a former Iranian ambassador to Syria and once a leader of the student movement that took 52 U.S. Embassy workers hostage in 1979. “They impose unlawful sanctions on us, and now they want us to retreat. No way.”

It was not clear whether the assessments — made in interviews with a wide range of current and former politicians, diplomats and analysts — reflect the official view of Iranian leaders preparing to meet with negotiators from the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. The six-country bloc agreed last month to an Iranian request to resume nuclear talks after a lull of 14 months.

Western officials also have played down expectations for the talks, which are not yet scheduled, although some suggested that the pessimism in Tehran could be a bargaining tactic. On Wednesday, Iranian officials dispatched a letter to the European Union reiterating the government’s desire for a diplomatic solution and asking that a date and a venue for the negotiations be set.

U.S. and European diplomats have been characterizing the talks as a modest first step that will mostly serve to demonstrate whether Iranian intentions are sincere.

“Maybe miracles happen,” a European diplomat said, insisting on anonymity in discussing his country’s position going into the talks, “but mostly we have to see if there is willingness by Iran to have a serious discussion of nuclear issues.”

Since agreeing to talks, Iranian leaders have publicly adopted a tough line on the subject of uranium enrichment. In a televised address last month, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared that possessing nuclear weapons was “a sin,” but he also vowed that Iran would not be forced to waive its legal right to a civilian nuclear energy program.

“Pressures, sanctions and assassinations will bear no fruit,” Khamenei said. “No obstacles can stop Iran’s nuclear work.”

The rhetoric adds to the predicament facing the Obama administration. In the past, the administration has backed compromises intended to effectively end Iran’s ability to convert uranium into weapons fuel while allowing Iran to save face by claiming that it reserves the right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. A compromise in 2009, for example, called on Iran to surrender nearly its entire stockpile of low-enriched uranium in exchange for nuclear fuel rods for Iran’s aging medical research reactor.

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