The six powers holding nuclear talks with Iran have no intention of softening their position presented in Baghdad last month, even if this approach scuppers the negotiations, a senior Israeli official said.
The negotiating teams of Iran and the six powers - the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - arrived in Moscow on Sunday for the third round of talks. The negotiations will begin at 11 A.M. Monday and continue until Tuesday night.
After the current round, representatives of the powers are expected to fly to Israel and update its leaders.
According to the senior official, Israel was told in recent days that the powers will demand an answer to their Baghdad offer. This includes a demand that Iran stop enriching uranium to 20 percent, the removal from Iran of uranium enriched beyond 20 percent, and the suspension of operations at the underground facility at Fordo, near Qom.
In exchange, the powers propose supplying nuclear fuel for Iran's research sites, assistance in developing a civilian nuclear program, and parts for Iran's civilian aircraft.
The powers have no intention to agree to Iran's demand to postpone the European Union's oil embargo, due to begin on July 1, or the U.S. sanctions on the Iranian central bank, due to begin on June 28.
"The United States and some of the other powers have clarified that they do not intend to budge from the proposition presented in Baghdad," the senior Israeli official said. "They told us that they do not intend to hold talks just for the sake of talks, and that they don't fear that the talks will break down, because sometimes to make progress you need a crisis first."
The Iranians, too, are taking a tough stance in the run-up to the Moscow talks; both sides seek to prove that they are not too eager to strike a deal.
Western diplomats have told The Associated Press that the Moscow talks are crucial. They say this round will probably be the last in a series and that if the negotiators fail to make progress persuading Tehran to stop higher-grade uranium enrichment, it's unclear if or when new talks would happen.
"It's unclear when or if there will be a fourth round of talks," a diplomat said.
Iranian news agency Mehr reported that "the Iranian negotiating team does not seem optimistic about the result of nuclear talks with the major powers ... The quality of the interaction of the Western countries' representatives in the nuclear talks with Iran coupled with the atmosphere prevalent in the Baghdad talks, a reluctance for preparatory and expert talks before the Moscow meeting, and no authorization to present effective proposals have almost eroded chances for a breakthrough in the talks."
Saeed Jalili, the head of the Iranian team, said on his arrival in Moscow that Iran expected the six powers to recognize Iran's right to enrich uranium on its own soil. The powers refused this demand in the two previous rounds of talks.
Meanwhile, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Sunday that even if Iranian nuclear facilities were attacked by another power, not Israel, Iran would launch rockets at Israel in retaliation.
"Iran has 400 rockets that can reach us and will launch some of them," Ya'alon said at a conference at Bar-Ilan University. "Hezbollah, too, will use thousands of rockets against us in such a case."