Iran seeks ' sanctions relief' at nuclear talks
Failed talks at Moscow with no immediate prospect of new meetings would expose President Barack Obama to criticism of weakness in dealing with Iran from Mitt Romney, his U.S. Republican presidential challenger, and from Israel, which has threatened to attack the Islamic Republic's nuclear installations should diplomacy fail.
It is unclear if the Jewish state would actually make good on such a threat. But any military move would likely draw in the U.S. and widen the conflict through much of the Mideast, spiking the price of oil upward and further hurting the already ailing world economy.
The six nations formally are only prepared to ease restrictions on airplane parts for Iran's outmoded, mostly U.S.-produced civilian fleet and are offering technical help with aspects of Iran's nuclear program that cannot be used for military purposes.
While not budging on lifting existing sanctions or those already decided upon, diplomats familiar with the talks told the AP, however, the six are also prepared to guarantee that no new U.N. penalties will be enacted if Tehran compromises enough. The diplomats demanded anonymity because that possible offer has not yet been formally made.
For Iran, the main formal demand remains international recognition of its right to enrich and related issues — with increasing emphasis on sanctions relief.
The six are pressing the Islamic Republic to stop higher enrichment to 20 percent purity because at that level the material can be turned into weapons grade uranium much more quickly.
They also want Fordo, the underground Iranian facility where most of this enrichment is taking place, shut down and for Iran to ship out its higher-grade stockpile. Fordo is of special concern because it might be impervious to air attacks, a possible last-resort response to any Iranian bomb in the making.
An Iranian delegate, who demanded anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss Iran's position, told The Associated Press that his country was ready to compromise but only if the six accepted Tehran's right to enrich. In turn, he said Iran may agree to consider suspending 20 percent level enrichment as a voluntary, temporary measure.
"Our minimum demand ... is for them to recognize our right to uranium enrichment," he said. "If this is not accepted by the other side, then the talks will definitely collapse."
Associated Press writer Ali Akbar Dareini contributed.
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