WASHINGTON -- The latest negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program appeared to hit a snag in their opening hours Friday amid arguments over whether Tehran has properly responded to a proposal to work out acceptable curbs on its efforts.
At a gathering in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Iranian officials said they provided a “comprehensive proposal” in response to an offer made in February by six major powers. But a Western official said Iran has expressed only “general comments.”
It is unclear if the standoff will continue, since the history of the talks shows that any progress usually emerges in the final minutes. The diplomatic gathering in Almaty is scheduled to last another day.
The United States and some of its allies suspect that Iran’s nuclear program is designed to develop weapons. Tehran insists its research and development is aimed at peaceful uses such as generating power.
The six nations attending the talks -- the U.S., Russia, Britain, Germany, China and France -- have been seeking Tehran’s commitment to both rein in its nuclear program and open it up to international inspection.
An impasse in this round -- following four inconclusive meetings since the beginning of last year -- would renew calls for the United States and allies to move from diplomacy to tougher economic penalties or military action.
Israel, which feels particularly vulnerable to any nuclear arsenal developed by Iran, has warned that the Iranians are only a few months away from having the capability of making a bomb and has vowed to prevent that from happening.
Both sides in the talks are maneuvering to convince the world audience that they are negotiating in good faith and the other side is being unreasonable.