Iran’s foreign minister said on Monday that it was time to end the country’s long standoff with world powers over its disputed nuclear program.
“The parties have reached a conclusion that they must exit the current deadlock,” Ali Akbar Salehi told the Iranian ISNA news agency.
The six major powers engaging Iran over its nuclear work said in late November they wanted to soon hold a new round of talks with Tehran.
Ali Akbar Salehi’s comments came ahead of an expected resumption of diplomacy, perhaps next month, aimed at preventing the decade-old nuclear dispute from degenerating into a Middle East war that could damage an already fragile world economy.
Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear-armed power, has threatened military action to prevent its arch-enemy from acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran denies any such goal and says it would hit back hard if attacked.
“The two sides (Iran and world powers) have reached a conclusion that they must exit the current stalemate,” Salehi was quoted as saying by the Iranian Students’ News Agency.
The West suspects Iran is trying to develop the means to build atomic bombs under the cover of a declared civilian nuclear energy program. The Islamic Republic says it is enriching uranium as fuel for civilian energy, not bombs.
Iran and the six powers - the United States, Russia, France, China, Britain and Germany - have expressed readiness to revive efforts to find a negotiated solution. But Salehi said he did not know when the next meeting would be held.
The powers, known as P5+1, said last week they hoped soon to agree with Iran on when and where to meet. There have been suggestions it could happen this month, though January now seems more likely, Western officials say.
In Washington, the State Department said Iran had been presented with a specific offer of a date and venue for the next talks but had yet to respond.
“We are continuing to maintain contacts with the Iranians. We did make an offer with regard to venue and timing for another round but we have yet to hear from the Iranians on this,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, according to Reuters.
“Really the ball is in the Iranians’ court. If they want to come back to the table we are ready to do that, but we want to see them be serious,” Nuland told a news briefing.