Powers to offer Iran sanctions relief at nuclear talks

Mon Feb 25, 2013 3:31pm EST
 

By Justyna Pawlak and Fredrik Dahl

ALMATY (Reuters) - Major powers will offer Iran some sanctions relief during talks in Almaty, Kazakhstan, this week if Tehran agrees to curb its nuclear program, a U.S. official said on Monday.

But the Islamic Republic could face more economic pain if it fails to address international concerns about its atomic activities, the official said ahead of the February 26-27 meeting in the central Asian state, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"There will be continued sanctions enforcement ... there are other areas where pressure can be put," the official said, on the eve of the first round of negotiations between Iran and six world powers in eight months.

A spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who leads the talks with Iran on behalf of the powers, said Tehran should understand that there was an "urgent need to make concrete and tangible progress" in Kazakhstan.

Both Russia and the United States stressed there was not an unlimited amount of time to resolve a dispute that has raised fears of a new war in the Middle East.

"The window for a diplomatic solution simply cannot by definition remain open forever. But it is open today. It is open now," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in London.

"There is still time but there is only time if Iran makes the decision to come to the table and negotiate in good faith," he added in a news conference in London. "We are prepared to negotiate in good faith, in mutual respect, in an effort to avoid whatever terrible consequences could follow failure."

It was not clear what he meant by "terrible consequences." Top U.S. officials have repeatedly said the United States will not take any options off the table, code for the possibility of a military strike. They also fear Iran's getting a nuclear weapon could set off an arms race across the Middle East.   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. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl