Analysts said Iran's supreme leader appears to have offered no concessions on a key point in a global nuclear dispute, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has signaled no willingness to dial back Iran's uranium-enrichment efforts in a potential exchange for sanctions relief from six other nations, the newspaper reported on Monday. Rather, the top cleric this month demanded an international go-ahead to significantly boost Iran's uranium refinement, which Washington and its allies fear to be geared toward generating weapon material.
Khamenei, who wields final say on all Iranian policy moves, appeared to set crucial limits for Iran's diplomats when he issued the uranium-enrichment demand on July 7, according to the Times. Tehran insists its nuclear activities are intended strictly for peaceful purposes.
"He doesn't seem ready to make the fundamental compromise," said Suzanne Maloney, a Brookings Institution specialist on Iran.
Maloney added that Khamenei's demands do not appear to be bluffs he could later drop. "There's really no evidence to suggest that's the case," she said.
The supreme leader's tough stance appeared to differ from the relative flexibility shown by Iranian negotiators, Reuters reported on Monday.
"I am convinced that they are committed," one high-level Western envoy said of Iran's diplomats, after the sides had agreed to extend the negotiations into November.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, though, this week affirmed Khamenei's preeminent role in the discussions with China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
"The leader of the revolution, Ayatollah Khamenei, leads the negotiations," the Times quoted Rouhani as saying in a Twitter message on Sunday.