Skip to main content

World powers restart nuclear talks with Iran after 8-month break

By Ivan Watson, CNN
February 27, 2013 -- Updated 1228 GMT (2028 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The last round of negotiations was held in Moscow in June
  • "Most probably, the negotiations in Almaty will fail," top official says
  • Iran has held several negotiations with the P5 plus 1 nations
  • Iran's uranium enrichment program has expanded since the last talks

Almaty, Kazakhstan (CNN) -- Talks began Tuesday between six world powers and Iran over its controversial nuclear program for the first time in nearly eight months.

But the mood going into the negotiations was as bleak as the fog that hung over this snowbound Central Asian city.

Read more: Is Iran installing advanced centrifuges ahead of talks?

"I don't think tomorrow (Tuesday) is likely to be a day in which we can announce a great success," a diplomat participating in the negotiations told journalists on condition of anonymity on the eve of the first meeting.

Other officials were not so optimistic either.

Iran nuclear program under pressure
How sanctions hurt Iran

"Most probably, the negotiations in Almaty will fail," said Hossein Mousavian, who served as Iran's nuclear negotiator until 2005.

Iran has held several rounds of negotiations with the P5 plus 1, which comprises Germany and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The five members are the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China.

But since the delegation last met, Iran's uranium enrichment program has expanded in violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Sources: Iran to be offered 'serious' incentive

At the same time, international sanctions crippling the Iranian economy have gotten tougher.

Iran insists it is only developing nuclear technology for peaceful energy needs. The nation's supreme leader repeated that message in a long speech on February 16.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran has not decided to build nuclear weapons and this decision is not because of America's concern. Rather, this decision is based on the belief that building nuclear weapons is a crime against humanity," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said.

"If Iran had decided to build nuclear weapons, America would not have been able to stop the Iranian nation in any way," Khamenei added.

But a quarterly report published earlier this month by the International Atomic Energy Agency continued to cast doubt on Iran's nuclear program.

The IAEA said Iran had continued its production of 20% enriched uranium, though the majority of the uranium had been converted to fuel, which is not material that can be used for a weapon.

Iran installed new centrifuges, the IAEA reported. It has also refused to provide IAEA inspectors access to the Parchin military complex, which is suspected of housing a large containment vessel that could be

"The Agency is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities," the IAEA concluded.

Since the last round of negotiations were held in Moscow in June, the United States, the European Union and the U.N. Security Council have continued to pile sanctions against Tehran, crippling the country's economy. Iran's oil exports have plummeted more than 50% as has the value of the rial, Iran's currency.

Fareed Zakaria: Nuclear Iran, war, or...?

Most recently, the United States and the European Union imposed sanctions restricting the sale of gold and precious metal to Iran.

Last November, Turkey's deputy prime minister confirmed suspicions among many economists that a surge in Turkish gold exports to Iran was basically an oil-for-gold trade to circumvent sanctions blocking Tehran from international electronic transactions.

Former Iranian nuclear negotiator Mousavian argued it would be impossible for both sides to agree to a deal, unless the P5 plus 1 offered relief from sanctions.

Western diplomats said they brought a new package of proposals to Almaty, but declined to comment on the specifics.

"We've put some proposals forward, which will hopefully help Iran show some flexibility," said Michael Mann, a spokesman for Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief who is chairing the talks.

"What comes out of this meeting does depend very much on the Iranian reaction to what we propose," Mann added. "The onus is very much on the Iranians. They are of course in breach of U.N. security council resolutions and board of governance IAEA resolutions as well."

In a separate briefing, a U.S. official told journalists, on condition of anonymity, that the new package would include "some additional sanctions relief."

In his speech on February 16th, Iran's supreme leader argued that the P5 plus 1 countries, and in particular the U.S., were insincere when they talked about working toward a negotiated solution.

"This kind of negotiation does not serve any purpose. It will not reach any results," Khamenei said.

"They are not after genuine and fair negotiations. Rather, that they are pursuing the goal of making the Iranian nation surrender."

Analysts have suggested it may be difficult for the Iranian delegation to agree to any substantial compromise since Iran is gearing up to elect a new president in June.

Asked about this theory, the U.S. official told journalists elections "may constrain their political space."

But, the official added, "when it comes to the nuclear file, the decisions rest in the hand of the supreme leader and he is not going to change in June."

Nuclear talks host also a model for possible Iran option

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1049 GMT (1849 HKT)
British PM David Cameron has had the narrowest of political escapes.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
British journalist John Cantlie hadn't been seen in nearly two years. Now, he's the latest hostage to be paraded out by ISIS.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 2303 GMT (0703 HKT)
Alibaba's IPO is unlike anything investors have ever seen and could threaten other online retailers. Maggie Lake reports.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1226 GMT (2026 HKT)
Indian PM Narendra Modi has said al Qaeda will fail if it seeks to spread its terror network into his country.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1921 GMT (0321 HKT)
The CDC's Rebecca Levine, tasked with tracking the spread of Ebola, shares her experiences in this video diary.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
Put yourself in the shoes (and sixth-century black robes) of ISIS' Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the mysterious boss of the terror group.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1140 GMT (1940 HKT)
 Tennis Player Li Na attends the WTA Pre-Wimbledon Party as guests enjoy Ciroc Vodka presented by Dubai Duty Free at Kensington Roof Gardens on June 19, 2014 in London,
Asia's first grand slam singles champion Li Na has called time on her 15-year tennis career.
Jenson Button has some of quickest reactions ever shown at an advanced sports lab.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1124 GMT (1924 HKT)
Creative companies with quirky ideas find new lending models advantageous.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1409 GMT (2209 HKT)
Even death couldn't part two skeletons excavated from a lost chapel in an English county, found with their fingers entwined.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1007 GMT (1807 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT