World powers to meet in Brussels to map out Iran plans

Tue Nov 20, 2012 6:36pm EST
 
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By Justyna Pawlak

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Officials from six world powers meet in Brussels on Wednesday to plan for a possible new round of talks with Iran, the latest effort to resolve a decade-long stand-off over its nuclear program and avert the threat of a military conflict.

The re-election of U.S. President Barack Obama this month has cleared the way for new talks and Western diplomats are eager to start soon as signs grow that Iran is still building up its nuclear capacity.

But the window of opportunity for a negotiated solution is narrowing because of growing alarm over Tehran's nuclear course in Israel, which has threatened to bomb Iranian installations.

Any Israeli strike, which would spark more fighting in the Middle East, is unlikely before the country's January 22 election, experts say, giving the six powers some room for maneuver.

"There certainly is a window to do a deal, but that window is closing, and closing fast. Ultimately it depends on the Iranians meeting their international obligations," said Ariel Ratner, former Obama administration political appointee on Middle East issues at the State Department.

In hopes of a breakthrough, and despite deep skepticism a deal with Tehran can be reached, the powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States - are revising their strategy after three inconclusive rounds of negotiations this year.

Their plan could be presented to Iran in talks, convened by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, which diplomats say may take place in the coming months in Istanbul.

"The idea of the (Wednesday) meeting is to coordinate on what kind of offer we are going to go forward with to Iran," said one senior Western official, familiar with the planning.   Continued...

 
EDITORS' NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on leaving the office to report, film or take pictures in Tehran. A security official stands in front of the Bushehr nuclear reactor, 1,200 km (746 miles) south of Tehran, August 21, 2010. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi