02/18/2014, 00.00
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Khamenei, US and Netanyahu pessimistic about Iranian nuclear talks

Talks in Vienna to place Iran's nuclear programme under international supervision in exchange for an end to sanctions are expected to be long. Hassan Rouhani will have a positive impact however. For Iran's Khamenei, talks "will lead to nowhere". For US official, they will be a "complicated, difficult and lengthy process". Israel's Netanyahu sees Tehran as the winner that should be punished for its "aggressive behaviour." Still, US is prepared for confrontation and new sanctions.

Vienna (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The negotiations on the Iranian nuclear issue that resumed this morning in Vienna are "difficult," US sources said cited by Reuters, and "will lead to nowhere," this according to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is even more sceptical, saying that it would be better to punish Iran's "aggressive attitude".

The meeting that opened at 11 am today in the Austrian capital brought together the Iranian delegation, led by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and the representatives of the 5 +1 Group, which includes United States, Russia, Britain, France, and Germany.

Their goal is to reach a long-term agreement to end the tensions that have defined Iran's relations with the international community for the past ten years. If talks succeed, they could open up the Iranian market to the West and reduce the risk of a world war.

Talks got back on track after Iran and the international community agreed on 20 January that Tehran would reduce its nuclear activities in exchange for a partial lifting of economic sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe.

Such an agreement will remain in place for six months, until July thanks in part to Iran's new president Hassan Rouhani.

However, the West wants Iran to submit its nuclear programme to UN inspections and offer assurances that it does not have military purposes.

Tehran, which has never interrupted its programme and successfully avoided inspections, has always claimed that its purpose is scientific and medical in nature.

However, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is sceptical. "The work that has been started by the foreign ministry will continue and Iran will not violate its commitment, but I repeat it again, it will lead to nowhere," he said just before the start of talks. In his view, they will fail because the United States will find other reasons to impose sanctions on Iran.

Nevertheless, despite his pessimism he sees them as a useful way to boost the country's power and economy, after years of sanctions. Therefore, "We will not renege."

For his part, a senior US administration official acknowledged that talks will be a "complicated, difficult and lengthy process".

Barack Obama surprised many last November when he accepted the temporary agreement, allowing talks to go ahead with Tehran after nearly 30 years of icy relations.

For this reason, he was criticised by US conservatives.

Perhaps to appease this segment of the American public, the US president made it clear that "all options on the table," including war and military attacks.

For Wendy Sherman, who heads the US delegation, nuclear talks need to expand to include Iran's ballistic missiles. In her view, sanctions should continue because of Tehran's human rights record and its support for terrorism (Hizbollah and Syria).

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is among those who have criticised Obama for his willingness to hold talks with Tehran. For the Israeli leader, Tehran is the only winner in the current situation.

Throughout his political career, Netanyahu has always treated Iran as Israel's most dangerous enemy.

Even now, when Israel is still the only nuclear power in the Middle East, he has not ruled out military operations against Iranian nuclear bases, even though that might lead to a world war.

On Monday, he said that Iran was the only beneficiary of nuclear talks with world powers and accused Tehran of "continuing its aggressive behavior."

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