U.S.: Iran's nuclear program has slowed, there is time for diplomacy
A senior U.S. official said Saturday that the six world powers are willing to pursue a diplomatic solution with Iran on its nuclear program but the choice is for Tehran to make.
Talking to journalists after the discussions in Istanbul ended without even an agreement to meet again, the official said: "There are signs that Iran's nuclear program has slowed so there is time and space for diplomacy ... [We] hope the Iranians recalibrate and provide an opening for diplomacy."
The official also said the big powers -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany -- were "quite united in our purpose".
Earlier on Saturday, the European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton announced that the nuclear talks in Istanbul between the six world powers and Iran have ended with no agreement, saying that the six powers were "disappointed" by Iran's stance.
Ashton said the talks foundered on Iran's insistence that the United Nations Security Council lift the sanctions it had imposed on the country as a precondition for new negotiations. Iran was also seeking recognition by the six powers that it had a right to enrich uranium.
An aide to Iran's chief negotiator Saeed Jalili told Reuters that the talks would resume, even if the timing and venue were still undecided. However, Ashton said further talks depended on a more constructive approach from Tehran.
"The process can go forward if Iran chooses to respond positively," she said. "The door remains open. The choice remains in Iran's hands."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this month that sanctions had set back Iran's nuclear program, giving the powers more time to persuade Teheran to change tack.
Her comments were the first public U.S. assertion that Iran's nuclear project had been slowed down.
Earlier this month, Israeli intelligence assessments said Israel now believed Iran would not be able to produce a nuclear weapon before 2015 and that a top Israeli official had counseled against pre-emptive military action.
This signaled new confidence in U.S.-led sanctions and other measures designed to discourage or delay Iran's nuclear drive. Some analysts saw that as a sign of reduced risk that the dispute would escalate into a military conflict any time soon.
The West suspects Iran wants to develop nuclear weapons while Tehran says its atomic energy program is peaceful.
The standoff has dragged on for eight years and expectations were low heading into the Istanbul talks between Iran and the six powers - the United States, France, Germany, China, Russia and Britain - whose delegations were led by Ashton.
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