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Deep-seated Iranian suspicions of U.S. motives adds to the hurdles at the Almaty talks, said Belfer Center nonproliferation expert Gary Samore, alluding to Iran‘s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Mr. Samore, Mr. Obama’s coordinator for weapons of mass destruction until January, said Ayatollah Khamenei “strongly suspects that the U.S. is using the nuclear issue to ultimately overthrow the (Iranian) regime.”

Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies said that “the two sides are just too far apart.”

“At best they may narrow their differences,” said Mr. Fitzpatrick, a former U.S. administration official.

Even an agreement to keep talking would give both sides short-term gains.

It would leave the international community with some breathing space in its efforts to stem Iran‘s nuclear advance. For Tehran, continued negotiations are insurance that neither Israel nor the United States will feel the need to act on threats of action.

• AP writers Nasser Karimi in Tehran and Joe Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this article.