Demonstrators protest outside of the main offices of the German Council… (Paul Zinken / EPA )
Six world powers and Iran announced they will resume talks on Iran’s disputed nuclear program Feb. 26 in Kazakhstan, after three months of gridlock over arrangements for a new meeting.
Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported Tuesday that Iran’s national security council had agreed to the session. It was confirmed a few hours later by the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, who is the point person for the six power group.
The six countries – Russia, China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States – have been urging Iran to accept limits on a nuclear program many fear is aimed at developing a nuclear weapon.
Though Iran insists its program is aimed at only peaceful uses of atomic energy, the regime is eager to win relief from international sanctions that are crushing its economy.
International concerns have been rising in recent months, amid signs that Tehran is edging closer to a nuclear capability. Diplomats acknowledge that if the two sides don’t make progress within the next few weeks there may be a long interruption in the talks because of the approach of presidential elections in Iran in June.
A senior U.S. official said the agreement was “positive” but added that “we’ll be looking to see if they are prepared to engage seriously.”
But a senior Iranian official was quoted questioning Western motives in the negotiation, suggesting that some officials in Tehran may not be in a mood to make a deal.
Abdollah Haj-Sadeghi, a representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, was quoted by the Iranian Students News Agency as saying the Western powers “never want real dialogue and negotiations.”
Iran disclosed last month that it plans to install up to 3,000 more powerful centrifuges to its nuclear complex, a step that would allow Iran to accumulate nuclear bomb fuel much more quickly if it decides to assemble a device.
The six countries and Iran met three times last spring to discuss the nuclear program but did not achieve a breakthrough. The Obama administration has threatened a military attack against Iran if it can’t find any other way to prevent the regime from obtaining a bomb.
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