World Bulletin/News Desk
A former Iranian negotiator on Friday dismissed as "diamonds for peanuts" a proposal by world powers that Tehran halt higher-grade uranium enrichment and close an underground nuclear site in exchange for reactor fuel and civil aviation parts.
Hossein Mousavian, now a visiting scholar at Princeton University in the United States, said he did not believe Iran would accept the offer when the two sides hold a new round of discussions in Moscow on June 18-19.
It will be the third meeting since diplomacy restarted in April after a 15-month hiatus.
"I do not expect too much," said Mousavian, a senior member of Iran's nuclear negotiating team in 2003-05.
If the major powers are not ready to move on the critical issues of gradually removing sanctions on Iran and recognising its right to refine uranium, "I'm afraid the Moscow talks also would fail," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.
Mousavian held his post before conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took over from his reformist predecessor Mohammad Khatami in 2005. Western envoys who know Mousavian say that at the time he appeared to be genuinely interested in reaching a deal with the West.
The six powers - the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia - want to make sure Iran does not develop nuclear bombs. The Islamic Republic wants a lifting of sanctions and recognition of what it says are its rights to peaceful nuclear energy, including enriching uranium.
European Union officials said on Monday that Iran had agreed to discuss a proposal to curb its production of higher-grade uranium at the meeting in the Russian capital, an apparent attempt to reduce tensions ahead of the talks.
The development followed more than two weeks of wrangling between Iranian diplomats and Western negotiators over preparations for the closely watched round of negotiations.
Mousavian said Iran was ready for a "big deal" on the decade-old nuclear dispute, but political constraints in the United States ahead of November's presidential election and other factors meant the other side was not.
"President Obama has very limited room to manoeuvre in an election year," Mousavian said. Barack Obama's Republican opponents have attempted to paint him as soft on enemies of the United States.
In the immediate term, the powers want Tehran to cease enriching uranium to 20 percent fissile concentration, because such production represents a major technological advance en route to making weapons-grade material.
They put forward a proposal on how to achieve this at a round of talks in Baghdad in May, in which Tehran would stop production, close the Fordow underground facility where such work is done, and ship its stockpile out of the country.
In return, they offered to supply the Islamic state with fuel for a medical research reactor in Tehran, which requires 20-percent uranium, and to ease sanctions against the sale of commercial aircraft parts to Iran.
No agreement was reached in Baghdad but the seven countries agreed to continue discussions in Moscow.
"I believe this is diamonds for peanuts," Mousavian said, adding that Iran already had fuel rods. "Therefore this is not something great to offer Iran."
The International Crisis Group think-tank said the powers' offer "was deliberately ungenerous" and likely to have been meant as an opening bid in what they regarded as a longer process of negotiations.
Mousavian said, however, that Iran was ready for confidence-building measures regarding its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, which it started in 2010 and has since expanded.
He said his own proposal was that Iran would agree to eliminate such material from its stockpile, either by converting it to fuel, exporting it or lowering its enrichment concentration to 3.5 percent - the level usually required for power plants.
'2015 was by and large a decent year for news on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,' International Institute for Strategic Studies chief says
State-run television says a 'number of citizens' were killed and injured
'The fact that the Guardian Council added over 1,400 to the approved list shows the efficiency of the government's follow-ups and consultations,' interior ministry says
Two separate trials have been opened in UAE against 26 people in total over suspected links to Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah armed groups
UN refugee agency wants Turkey to open its borders to the Syrians fleeing from Aleppo
'We have discussed the potential value of a special operations capability inside that element, which would be valuable,' Saudi foreign minister says
Forces loyal to Hadi lay siege Aden's central Mansura district and clashed with militants, while coalition Apache helicopters provided air cover
The proposal, denounced by critics as likely to encourage a witch-hunt against leftist groups that campaign for the defence of Palestinian rights, passed nonetheless following a tense debate
FM Steinmeier is to host meeting on Thursday of foreign ministers from US, Russia and regional powers, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey
Footage showing Egypt president's convoy driving over several kilometres of red carpet sparks outrage on social media
The Islamic republic's supreme leaders urges officials not to be distracted by upcoming election and focus on 'major issues', such as economy
UN commission of inquiry on Syria accused Damascus of committing 'extermination as a crime against humanity'
Opposition factions north of Syria's second city Aleppo have been increasingly stuck 'between the pincers' of Kurdish YPG forces on one side and pro-regime fighters on the other
Human Rights Watch denounces Egyptian justice minister's call to kill Muslim Brotherhood members
Saudi air defense has said that it destroyed a scud missile that was launched from Yemen.
Abu Dhabi says it is prepared to help int'l coalition against terrorist group; announcement comes days after Saudi Arabia pledges support