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Iran Meetings Begin With Crimea Tensions as Backdrop

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, right, and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton attend the first day of a multilateral nuclear meeting in Vienna on Tuesday. It remains unclear how an international standoff over the disputed Crimean Peninsula may affect efforts to resolve tensions over Iran's nuclear program. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, right, and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton attend the first day of a multilateral nuclear meeting in Vienna on Tuesday. It remains unclear how an international standoff over the disputed Crimean Peninsula may affect efforts to resolve tensions over Iran's nuclear program. (Dieter Nagl/AFP/Getty Images)

Iran launched nuclear talks with six powers amid uncertainty about how tensions over Ukraine may affect the dialogue, the New York Times reports.

Russia's steps aimed at annexing Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula had unclear implications for the ongoing dialogue between Iranian diplomats and their counterparts from China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Their latest high-level meeting -- expected to continue through Wednesday -- is part of a series of discussions aimed at negotiating a long-term deal to address global suspicions that Iran is pursuing a nuclear-arms capability under the guise of a peaceful atomic program.

Michael Mann, a spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, on Tuesday said he had not seen "any negative effect" from the crisis, Reuters reported.

"We continue our work in a unified fashion," Mann said to journalists. Ashton has communicated with Iran on behalf of the six other negotiating countries.

Shortly prior to the talks and a Crimean secession vote, a high-level U.S. government insider voiced hope that Russian actions "will not put these negotiations [with Iran] at risk," the Times reported.

Former Obama administration WMD czar Gary Samore, though, said the Crimea crisis could have significant implications for Iran's discussions with the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany.

"If [Russian President Vladimir Putin] goes ahead with his apparent intention to annex Crimea, we're going to have to sanction Russia, and they are going to have to retaliate, and it's really going to screw up the P-5+1 negotiations," Samore said.

"Iran will feel much less pressured to make any concessions if they think the P-5+1 are squabbling," he said. "They are not inclined to make any concessions anyway, but they are going to be less inclined until there is a resolution" of the standoff over Ukraine.

Robert Einhorn, who last year stepped down as U.S. State Department special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, said the tensions may encourage Moscow to "undermine the sanctions" on Iran if the talks hit an impasse, Bloomberg reported.

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