As diplomats from major world powers prepare to sit down with Iranian officials on February 26 in Kazakhstan’s commercial capital, Almaty, Tehran is sending conflicting signals about its nuclear intentions.
An International Atomic Energy Agency report leaked to the media February 21 found that Iran has slowed the buildup of its stockpile of 20-percent enriched uranium, but has also started installing advanced low-enrichment machines at its nuclear facility in Natanz. That move would potentially allow Iran to accelerate its nuclear program. The US State Department described it as “yet another provocative step.”
Against this backdrop, diplomats will strive in Almaty to break an existing deadlock on the Iranian nuclear issue. Iran will be negotiating with a six-nation group chaired by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called P5+1, consisting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France – plus Germany. Iranian leaders insist the country’s nuclear program is oriented toward civilian applications, while the international community fears Tehran is intent on developing nuclear weapons.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.