BRUSSELS - World powers expressed hope on Tuesday of resuming
negotiations with Iran over its disputed nuclear program "as soon as possible"
but gave no indication of a possible date for any new talks.
diplomats from the six countries negotiating with Tehran - the United States,
Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany - met in Brussels to map out plans
for diplomacy following the June 14 presidential election in
Negotiations have been on hold since a failed round in April and
the six nations are keen to get back to the table amid concerns a breakdown in
diplomacy could prompt Israel to attack Iran and spark a new war in the Middle
The European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who
oversees talks with Iran on behalf of the six powers, said they were waiting for
Tehran to nominate a team of negotiators after the presidential vote, before
making concrete plans.
"We very much hope that will be soon and we look
forward to meeting with them as soon as possible," she said in a
The election of a relative moderate, Hassan Rouhani, on June
14 has raised some hopes for a resolution of the long-running dispute over
Iran's nuclear intentions.
The six powers believe Iran is seeking the
means to make bombs, and have demanded Tehran abandon its most sensitive nuclear
work. But Tehran denies that and says it needs atomic power for energy
generation and medical research.
Russia has expressed frustration over a
lack of progress in diplomacy but Western diplomats have cautioned that it was
unclear whether Iran was ready to make a deal.
Rouhani, who takes office
in August, has pledged a less confrontational approach than his predecessor,
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, under whose presidency, over the last eight years, Iran has
come under increasingly tough international sanctions.
But Iran's Supreme
Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has the final say on nuclear policy.CAUTION IN
WASHINGTON, ANXIETY IN ISRAEL
So far, Western diplomats have said the next move
in diplomacy belonged to Iran, urging it to accept an offer of moderate
sanctions relief in exchange for curbs in the nuclear work, extended in
Kazakhstan earlier this year.
But nuclear experts have said the West may
have to refine its strategy to help Rouhani strike a deal.
senior U.S. administration official said last week it was not yet known whether
Rouhani's election would improve the prospects for a nuclear deal, but that
Washington and its allies would need to move quickly if they were to take
advantage of whatever opportunity may exist after the vote.
be a natural tendency within the administration to stand pat for now and wait to
see whether the new Iranian government will alter its approach when talks
resume," Robert Einhorn, the U.S. State Department's nonproliferation adviser
until last May, wrote in a July 10 Foreign Policy article.
is understandable, especially given Iran's disappointing track record." But, he
said, "The United States needs to do everything it can in the weeks and months
ahead to prepare itself for any promising opportunity that presents itself when
talks resume." The efforts are being closely watched in Israel, widely believed
to be the only nuclear power in the Middle East.
Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu said on Sunday that Iran
was getting closer to the "red line" he set
for its nuclear work, a level at which Israel thinks Iran will have amassed
enough uranium to fuel one nuclear bomb.
Officials also have expressed
concern that the six powers might be willing to accept a compromise offer from
Iran that would fall far short of Israeli expectations.
official have told Reuters they were worried Tehran would propose to temporarily
suspend the enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, one of the six powers' three
demands, and that they would accept it, giving up on the other two.
proposal is totally unacceptable from Israel's perspective," one official
The six powers have asked Iran to ship out its stockpile of
20-percent uranium and to close a facility where such work is done.