Iranian and European Union negotiators have begun talks in Paris in hopes of reaching an agreement that will quiet U.S. and European concerns that Tehran is involved in a secret nuclear weapons program.
The negotiations involving the EU's big three of Britain, France and Germany, are aimed at getting Tehran to verify that it is not involved in the production of nuclear weapons.
In return for that verification, Iran would be rewarded with trade contracts and security guarantees.
Iran continues to insist that it is sticking to a full-scale nuclear program despite demands from Europe and Washington to abandon uranium enrichment - a key phase in the nuclear fuel cycle - to prove it is not secretly developing atomic weapons.
But, according to professor Mohammed al-Said, who teaches Iranian studies at Ein Shams University in Cairo, Tehran has effectively used the issue of nuclear technology in order to achieve its own national goals of increasing its importance throughout the region.
Mr. al-Said says the development of nuclear technology has been a decades-old slogan raised by the regime in Tehran to find a distinguished place for Iran in the international and regional arena. The professor says Tehran believes the development and possession of nuclear technology will ensure its place as a global technological power.
Professor al-Said says the Iranian economy is in deep decline, and he says Tehran is using the issue of nuclear development to bargain for increased international investment. He says because of the economic situation in Iran, he does not believe Tehran is currently seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
Uranium enrichment makes the fuel for civilian nuclear reactors, which Iran says it has every right to do under international law, but also when in highly refined form can be the explosive core of atom bombs.