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Nuclear Issue To Be Focus Of Six-Power Iranian Talks


A senior U.S. government official says the nuclear issue will be the focus of talks when the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany meet Iranian representatives Thursday in Geneva. These will be the first negotiations for a year between Iran and the so-called P5+1, which includes the United Kingdom, China, France, Russia, the United States - plus Germany.

This will be the first time the United States will be involved as a full participant in a P5+1 meeting with Iran. It also will be the first time the United States will negotiate face-to-face with Iranian officials in 30 years.

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A senior U.S. government official, who does not wish to be named, says Iran's nuclear program is of great concern and will be the focus of discussions. The United States and other Western powers suspect Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

Iran says its uranium-enrichment program is for peaceful purposes only.

The U.S. official says Iran has the right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program, but says its credibility is very low, especially since the discovery of a secret uranium-enrichment facility near the Holy city of Qom. He says Iran will have to come clean before it can be considered an honest partner in these negotiations.

The Director for International Governance at the Graduate Institute for International Development Studies in Geneva, Daniel Warner, agrees. He tells VOA Iran will have to work hard to restore its credibility.

"The terrible thing about the discovery of the second plant that came up - we think that perhaps the West knew of this before - is that it shows that Iran cannot be trusted. And, any negotiation begins from transparency and confidence-building measures and when they sit down at the table in Geneva, it will be difficult for the five members of the Permanent Security Council and Germany to look at Iran and say, 'How can we believe that what you are saying will be true," he said.

Teheran says it is talking with the International Atomic Energy Agency to set a timetable for inspection of the site.

Another U.S. official says it is unlikely that Iran would have built a covert site for civilian purposes.

Warner says it is not easy to negotiate with the Iranians. "There are people who will say that the Iranians will drag out the negotiations as they have done in the past in order to have more time to further develop their nuclear weapons or the nuclear enrichment. That needs to be seen. But, they negotiate quite differently from the logical paradigms that we use in the West. So, nothing spectacular will happen. If they agree to meet again and if they have a clear agenda, I think that will already be something positive," he said.

The U.S. official says everyone needs to see practical steps and measurable results, and they need to see them quickly.

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