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Iran Holds New Talks Over Curbing Nuclear Program

May 23, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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JEFFREY BROWN: Now, Iran and the world’s major powers go back to the negotiating table over the Iranian nuclear program.

Judy Woodruff begins our coverage.

JUDY WOODRUFF: For the cameras at least, there were smiles among the diplomats who gathered in Baghdad today. Iran’s top negotiator and the European Union’s foreign policy chief were among those arriving for the latest talks. The same parties met last month in Istanbul, Turkey.

Today, the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany presented a proposal to rein in Iran’s uranium enrichment and prevent any move to building nuclear weapons.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the detailed proposal included unspecified “confidence-building” measures.

VICTORIA NULAND, State Department apokeswoman: What we are endeavoring to do is to lay out a path for Iran to demonstrate the peaceful intent. We will see how that goes, but, as we have said consistently, we need concrete actions.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Iran has said its program is only for peaceful purposes. It made a counteroffer today, apparently aimed at easing the bite of international economic sanctions.

A breakthrough appeared unlikely, but there were signs that some progress might be possible. On Monday, the head of the U.N. nuclear agency, the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, met with the Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili, in Tehran. As a result, Amano said a deal could be in the works to give U.N. inspectors access to critical Iranian sites, including the top-secret Parchin military complex seen here in a satellite image.

YUKIYA AMANO, director general, International Atomic Energy Agency: A decision was made by me and Mr. Jalili to reach agreement on the structured approach.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Amid the diplomacy, the threat of military action loomed in the background, in the form of possible airstrikes by Israel or the U.S. to destroy Iran’s nuclear sites before any bomb can be built.