Nations Square off Against Iran

POSTED: Thursday, October 1, 2009 - 7:40am

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 11:58pm

In Geneva it's six nations versus Iran on its nuclear programs. U.S. officials say Iran is on the defensive, now that the world knows about a secret nuclear facility it's building for years.

United Nations nuclear watchdogs say Iran should have disclosed this facility long ago. The meetings are seen as a double test, of Iran and whether it offers any new sign of cooperation; and of President Obama’s contention that talking to Iran can make a difference.

The talks have teams of nuclear negotiators from six nations face to face with Iranian officials outside Geneva. The question is whether last week's exposure of this long-secret nuclear project south of Tehran give the U.S. and allies new leverage?

"The expectation is that now they have to show that there will be some transparency, that the disclosed site in Qom is going to be accessible to I.A.E.A. inspectors in short order," said National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer. Iran has not looked like a country ready to bargain, with weekend missile tests and President Ahmadinejad's claims its nuclear rights, as he calls them, are off limits in the talks.

As President Obama met with his security team on Afghanistan, Iran’s negotiator said he was prepared to offer to let U.N. inspectors in some in the U.S. smell a ruse. "They're taking multiple paths. They're being deceptive. They intend to end up and will end up with 30 nuclear weapons inside of a decade," said retired Army General Barry McCaffrey.

Unless teams from six nations can convince Iran it will be better off without them. Even the chief U.S. negotiator Nick Burns expects Iran won't come clean, and the question will be about sanctions.

The betting is that Iran offers just enough to divide the U.S. and Europe from Russia and China, who have protected Tehran in the past.