|Six major powers meet on Iran talks strategy||
Senior diplomats from six world powers met in Brussels on Wednesday to fine-tune negotiating strategy toward Iran with talks on its nuclear program entering a crunch stretch before a July 20 deadline, Reuters reported.
The six - the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany - and Iran plan in mid-May to start drafting the key elements of a broad settlement to the nuclear dispute, with the hope of putting an end to a decade of tensions.
Diplomats have signaled some progress may have been made during three rounds of talks since February on one of the most thorny issues - the future of Iran’s planned Arak heavy-water reactor, which Western states claim could be a source of plutonium for nuclear bombs once operational.
But talks so far have made no headway on other major issues, with the sides laying out their broad positions rather than negotiating solutions. Western diplomats warn that gaps between the two sides remain significant and possibly insurmountable.
The six nations now must decide what they want to achieve specifically in the next three months.
Iran’s overriding goal in the talks is an end to economic sanctions that have negatively affected the country’s economy.
“We need to elaborate our positions ... on what ideas will be put forward at the next (negotiation) round,” one diplomat with the six negotiating nations said. “It’s an important meeting because we want to get more concrete.”
Negotiators must decide to what extent they will want Iran to limit the scope of its uranium enrichment capacity, what should happen with its nuclear facilities, as well as the future of Iran’s nuclear research.
A central decision they need to make is the number of centrifuges that will be acceptable for them as remaining in Iran. Tehran has about 10,000 of the machines operating but the West will likely demand that the number is cut to the low thousands.
“That’s the billion-dollar-question, one to be decided on July 19 in the evening,” one negotiator said, conceding that getting Iran to agree to cut back the number of the machines will be a crucial challenge.
The sides are due to meet in Vienna on May 13 and again in late June, before hunkering down for a possibly lengthy round of 11th-hour talks ahead of the July deadline, when an interim deal they struck last November expires.
Officials disclosed no details of what decisions, if any, were taken at the Brussels meeting of senior diplomats from the six nations on Wednesday. But a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the talks had been “useful”.
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