World powers want new nuclear talks with Iran quickly

Wed Nov 21, 2012 3:45pm EST
 

By Justyna Pawlak

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Six world powers agreed on Wednesday to seek renewed talks with Iran as fast as possible, reflecting a heightened sense of urgency to resolve a long rift over Tehran's disputed nuclear activity and avert the threat of war.

Their call coincided with growing evidence of Iran expanding nuclear capacity in an underground bunker virtually impervious to attack and follows the November 6 re-election of U.S. President Barack Obama, which has cleared the way for new contacts.

Senior diplomats from the six countries - the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany - met in Brussels on Wednesday to consider new negotiating tactics despite abiding skepticism that a deal with Tehran can be reached.

It was not clear after the meeting what options, if any, were agreed. But the six said "necessary contact" with the Iranians would be made "in the coming days".

"The (six powers) are committed to having another round of talks with Iran as soon as possible," said a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the six countries in dealings with Iran.

Analysts warn that a window of opportunity for a negotiated solution is narrowing because of growing alarm over Tehran's nuclear course in Israel, the Middle East's only nuclear power which has threatened to bomb the atomic sites of its arch-enemy.

Any Israeli air strikes, which many believe would escalate into a wider Middle East war damaging to a wobbly global economy, are unlikely before Israel's January 22 election, experts say, giving the six powers some room for diplomatic 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, a former Obama administration political appointee on Middle East issues at the State Department.   Continued...

 
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks during a ceremony at the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, 350 km (217 miles) south of Tehran, April 9, 2007. REUTERS/Caren Firouz