Nepal – the country of the Buddha and the Mt. Everest

Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without – Buddha

Iran Nuclear Talks: Europe Accepts Offer To Discuss Tehran’s Program

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on March 7, 2012

* Global powers want to resume nuclear talks with Iran

* Concerns mounting over Iran’s bomb-making ability

* No timing or venue set for new talks yet (Adds details of Ashton’s letter, background)

By Justyna Pawlak

BRUSSELS, March 6 (Reuters) – European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton wrote to Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator on Tuesday, accepting an offer to meet to discuss Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Ashton represents six powers – the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – in dealings with Iran, and her offer of talks came after weeks of consultations with them.

It follows the expansion of sanctions by Europe and the United States to exert economic pressure and force Tehran to hold back on its nuclear programme, which they fear aims to produce atomic weapons. Iran says it is enriching uranium for peaceful purposes only.

In a letter last month, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, proposed that negotiations with global powers should resume after more than a year’s standstill, and said Tehran would have “new initiatives” to bring to the table.

“Today I have replied to Dr Jalili’s letter of Feb. 14,” Ashton said in a statement. “I have offered to resume talks with Iran on the nuclear issue,” she said.

Ashton’s letter proposed an initial round of talks to focus on building confidence by developing concrete steps for the future.

“Our overall goal remains a comprehensive negotiated, long-term solution which restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme, while respecting Iran’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy,” she said in her reply to Jalili.

Ashton said the time and venue for talks should now be decided but noted she wanted talks to resume as soon as possible.

“In practical terms,” she wrote, “our deputies could get together in the near future in order to prepare for the first round of our resumed talks.”

In another possible step towards greater cooperation, Iran said on Tuesday it would let U.N. nuclear investigators visit a military complex where they had been refused access, to check intelligence suggesting Tehran has pursued explosives research relevant to nuclear weapons.

Western states are likely to tread cautiously, mindful of past accusations that Iran’s willingness to talk has been a tool to buy time and not a path to agreement.

Officials say Iran faces an unprecedented strain on its economy due to the expansion of sanctions on its oil and financial sectors. In July, an EU embargo on Iranian crude is due to take full effect, drastically shrinking its export markets. (Editing by Ben Harding)

John Kerry steps in to defend Obama from Romney on Iran.

John Kerry jumped to President Obama’s defense on the Senate floor today. From HuffPost’s Michael McAuliff on Capitol Hill:

Former Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry chastised Mitt Romney Tuesday for “an attack on the administration’s Iran policy as inaccurate as it was aggressive,” and said the GOP frontrunner was helping Iran by playing politics with war.Romney declared in a Washington Post op-ed Tuesday that President Barack Obama was the “most feckless president” since Jimmy Carter, and charged that “While Obama frets in the White House, the Iranians are making rapid progress toward obtaining the most destructive weapons in the history of the world.”

Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a senator from Romney’s home state of Massachusetts, noted that Romney’s broadside came at an especially ill-chosen moment, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visiting Washington. And he argued that in the process of scoring political points, Romney was actually helping Iran.

“This can’t become just another applause line on the Republican presidential stump,” Kerry said in a lengthy Senate floor speech. “Talk has consequences, and idle talk of war only helps Iran by spooking the tight oil market and increasing the price of the Iranian crude that pays for its nuclear program.”

Kerry argued that Romney’s diatribe was especially bad because Romney ignored what Obama is already doing to reign in Iran, then suggested that Obama do those things. Among the steps that Kerry said Romney missed are increasing missile defense and securing nuclear materials around the globe.

“He calls for ever-tightening sanctions on Iran. What exactly is it that he thinks we’ve been doing for the past three years?” Kerry said, listing the growing string of sanctions against Iran.

“When you add it all up, Mitt Romney is just trying to ignore, twist, and distort the administration’s policy to drive a wedge in our politics,” declared Kerry

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