Iran and six global powers are gearing up for another round of nuclear talks, whose outcome is far from certain, despite the positive spin that is being imparted in the media to the dialogue that is expected later this month.

In New Delhi, the visiting head of Iran’s national Security Council, Saeed Jalili, confirmed on Friday that Iran had agreed to hold talks about its atomic programme with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany later this month. However, the date and venue are yet to be fixed. “We have accepted that these talks should be held in January, but until now, the details have not been finalised,” said Mr. Jalili during a media conference.

Many a false start

Given the number of false starts during negotiations over the past 10 years, most Iranians involved in this exercise view the upcoming talks with considerable scepticism.

Analysts say that expectations have been driven to a modest level on account of the West’s inability to work out a win-win package for a possible deal during the May 2012 meeting in Baghdad. During that round, its interlocutors wanted Iran to cease production of enriched uranium to a 20 per cent level — far below the level of purity required to manufacture a bomb.

They had also demanded closure of the Fordo facility near Qom where enrichment under the surveillance of the International Atomic Energy Agency has been under way. Besides, Iran was asked to ship its uranium stockpile out of the country. In return, Tehran was promised spare parts for civilian planes — a poorly structured “peanuts for diamonds” deal as colourfully phrased by Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a former spokesman for Iran’s nuclear negotiators.

Analysts point out that the talks can only make some headway if the western powers consider phased lifting of sanctions, in return for a transparency spiral from the Iranian side.

The Back Channel website is reporting that with the possible exception of Russia, which may want to engage with Iran on more generous terms, five global powers have agreed to “update” the package that was presented to Iran during the Baghdad talks. However, the website quoting diplomatic sources observed that “the changes to the package were not expected to be large-scale.”

Speaking at the Saban Forum in November, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that six countries have been consulting each other on a possible package in the hope of reciprocity from Iran. “We are deeply engaged in consultations right now with our P-5+1 colleagues, looking to put together a presentation for the Iranians at the next meeting that does make it clear we’re running out of time, we’ve got to get serious, here are issues we are willing to discuss with you, but we expect reciprocity,” she observed.

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