Iran signals it may strike deal on nuclear program

UNITED NATIONS — Iran increasingly appears willing to enter into negotiations in the near future over its nuclear program, diplomats close to the talks said Wednesday, a move that would restart a process that ended abruptly last fall.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier this week expressed interest in renewing talks with the United States and other major powers. Iranian officials have echoed that sentiment in conversations with diplomats on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, leading officials to believe Tehran will soon formally agree to resume talks.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her counterparts from Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany met Wednesday to discuss the prospects for negotiations and to review the sanctions imposed on Iran in June.

"We reaffirmed our determination and commitment to seek an early negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue and focused our discussion on further practical steps to achieve it at an early date," the ministers said in a statement read to reporters by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the chief negotiator with Iran for the major powers.

The statement did not suggest any new sanctions on Iran if it failed to negotiate seriously. Diplomats said discussion of new sanctions would be far in the future. In a tentative deal reached last October, Iran agreed to begin discussing its nuclear program while the United States, Russia and France agreed to help refuel an Iranian research reactor used for medical purposes. The negotiations never started and the deal with the research reactor fell apart.

Russia bans weapon sale: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev issued a decree Wednesday banning all sales of S-300 antiaircraft missile systems to Iran. The S-300 is capable of shooting down aircraft and missiles at ranges of over 90 miles and at altitudes of about 90,000 feet. Russia signed a 2007 contract to sell the sophisticated systems despite objections from Israel and the United States. No such missiles have been delivered yet. The decree prohibits exports of tanks, aircraft and sea vessels to Iran. The White House welcomed Medvedev's order.

Information from the Associated Press, the New York Times and the Washington Post was used in this report.

Iran signals it may strike deal on nuclear program 09/22/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 23, 2010 12:32am]

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