STATE DEPARTMENT - Iran and and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany are set to resume talks on Iran's nuclear program Thursday in New York -- in a bid to reach an agreement before a November deadline.
The two sides agreed to extend an original July deadline after negotiators failed to come to terms on a number of key issues, one of the major sticking points for negotiators being Iran's uranium enrichment capacity.
Iran said it needs an industrial-scale enrichment program to produce fuel. But some Western powers suspect Iran wants to make nuclear weapons.
The two sides have held bilateral meetings since the July deadline extension. But they may not make much headway in New York, said Robert Einhorn of the Brookings Institution.
“Unfortunately, I think it is likely that the parties will restate their positions and it will be up to subsequent encounters to narrow the gaps,” Einhorn said.
Analyst Kelsey Davenport of the Arms Control Association is cautiously optimistic the July extension has given negotiators time to reconsider their positions.
“I think that we will make progress on some of the difficult issues, like uranium enrichment, but that it will still be a very difficult two months before the November 24 deadline,” Davenport said.
But James Acton, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said it is possible both Iran and the U.N. members will wait until the 11th hour before reconsidering their positions.
“If major concessions are to be made,” Acton said, “they are only likely to be made right at the last minute when we are right up at the November deadline.”
Acton said if Iran is seen as the fundamental block to an agreement, there could be broad international consensus to impose more sanctions on the country.