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Iran nuclear talks: Will they veer off course?

Meeting in Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry and EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton underscore their preference for a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear program.

By Staff writer / February 14, 2013

Secretary of State John Kerry makes remarks to the media as EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton listens before their bilateral meeting at the State Deptartment in Washington, D.C., Thursday.

Mike Theiler/Reuters

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Washington

With world powers set to resume what have been off-and-on talks with Iran on its nuclear program, Secretary of State John Kerry and European Union foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton underscored their preference for a diplomatic solution when they met in Washington Thursday.

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But Secretary Kerry also put Tehran on notice earlier in the day that the United States will not accept the restarted diplomatic effort if Iran makes it into more talks for talk’s sake.

“We are not going to get trapped into a delay-after-delay process here,” Kerry said as he greeted United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the State Department Thursday morning. Referring to the international talks set for Feb. 26 in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Kerry said it will be “incumbent on the Iranians to prove that they are prepared to meet our willingness, President Obama’s willingness ... to be open to a diplomatic resolution.”

Before meeting with Ms. Ashton, Kerry remained mum on the talks’ prospects, saying, “We hope that the talks in Almaty in a few days can show some further progress, perhaps open some additional opportunities.”

Kerry and Ashton represent four of the six powers set to meet with Iranian officials. The six countries sitting down with Iran are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, Britain, Russia, China, and France – plus Germany. They’re hoping Iran will indicate at the initial meeting that it is ready to enter serious negotiations toward a deal to verifiably limit its advancing uranium-enrichment program.

Western nations say everything Iran is doing in its nuclear program – including enriching uranium to 20 percent purity, which is well beyond the level required for civilian power generation – suggests the country is secretly preparing to reach nuclear-weapons capability. Iran insists its program is for purely peaceful purposes.

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