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Current World Political News: US to Hold Talks With Iran June 9-10 About Iranian Nuclear Weapons, Capabilities

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First Posted: Jun 07, 2014 01:31 PM EDT
hassan rouhani
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (Photo : Getty Images)

United States officials will meet with their Iranian counterparts Monday and Tuesday in Geneva to resume talks about Iran's nuclear program ahead of formal negotiations later this month.

Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns will lead the bilateral consultations, according to Reuters. Burns previously led negotiations that helped facilitate the Nov. 24, 2013 interim nuclear agreement between Iran and Western powers. Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will also participate in the talks next week.

U.S. officials intend to draft a comprehensive deal after a decade-long standoff over the Tehran nuclear energy program.

The most recent negotiations between Iran and six major world powers were held in Vienna last month but were sidelined because of the failure of either side to reach a compromise. Each side accused the other of having unrealistic demands in the talks, which are aimed at limiting Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of economic sanctions.

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The U.S. has decided to meet with the Iranian delegation, which a U.S. official said may be led by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi. The bilateral meeting is a sign that Washington wants to move past the stalemate and continue negotiations.

"We've always said that we would engage bilaterally with the Iranians if it can help advance our efforts, in active coordination with the P5+1," the U.S. official told Reuters. "In order to really seriously test whether we can reach a diplomatic solution with Iran on its nuclear program, we believe we need to engage in very active and very aggressive diplomacy."

However, the official clarified that next week's talks are not negotiations.

"These are really consultations to exchange views in advance of the next negotiating round in Vienna," the official said.

The U. S. will join the group known as P5+1, which is comprised of Britain, France, China, Germany and Russia, to negotiate with Iran June 16-20. The talks will be coordinated by Catherine Ashton, the foreign policy chief of the European Union.

The U.S. official said Washington is being publicly open about the consultations, "unlike before when it needed to be kept very discreet to give it the best chance of success."

"We haven't yet seen the kind of realism on the Iranian side that we need to see or seen them make some of the tough choices we're going to have to see," the official said.

Both the consultations and negotiations are aimed at convincing Tehran to curb its nuclear program in exchange for an end to economic sanctions that have seriously hurt Iran's economy.

The main disagreement between western powers and Iran is over Iran's uranium enrichment capabilities, which Tehran said is necessary so it is not dependent on foreign fuel for nuclear reactors.

Tehran has denied Western allegations that they are building up their uranium capabilities to produce atomic weapons.

Both U.S. and Iranian officials said Iran and western powers made little progress at last month's Vienna negotiations, raising doubts that they can reach a compromise by the July 20 deadline. The two sides intended to draft a final agreement, but diplomats said the agreement was never drafted because of major disagreements.

Iran would benefit economically if it agrees to curb its nuclear capabilities since U.S. and European sanctions have cut Iran's oil exports in half over the past two years. However, Iran has refused to admit that they are using the enriched uranium for nuclear uses, effectively deadlocking efforts at a conciliatory deal.

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