VIENNA — Iran on Monday opened two days of nuclear talks with the United States, Russia and France with veiled threats that it could back away from an agreement reached this month to ship more than three-quarters of its stockpile of nuclear fuel out of the country, unless the West accedes to Iranian demands for new fuel.
The threats, broadcast on Iranian television and in statements from the country's atomic energy organization, may have simply been negotiating tactics ahead of negotiations that started in Vienna.
In the runup to the sessions, President Barack Obama's aides said the talks, while advertised as a meeting of technical experts about a proposal to ship three-quarters of Iran's nuclear fuel out of the country for conversion into a form that could be useful in a medical research reactor, would take on far more importance.
By the end of the talks, a senior administration official in Washington said, the United States will know if Iran is serious and whether there is time to pursue further diplomacy with Iran without fearing that it could race ahead to produce a nuclear weapon.
After the talks adjourned for the evening, Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is playing host, told reporters that it was "quite a constructive meeting." He did not elaborate on what was discussed.
If Iran carries through on what the European nations said was its commitment on Oct. 1 to temporarily send its nuclear fuel to Russia and France, Washington will be able to claim that its diplomacy reduced the threat of an Iranian "nuclear breakout," a sudden race to convert reactor fuel into bomb fuel.