Major Powers Set to Disclose Terms for Iran Nuclear Talks

A statement by Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and U.S. could signal that the diplomatic path remains open to Iran despite sanctions and renewed speculation of a military strike on its nuclear facilities.

The major powers seeking to negotiate an end to Iran's suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons are expected to issue documents on Friday laying out what Tehran would need to do return to talks, a diplomat said.

A statement by Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States would be the latest signal the diplomatic path remains open to Iran despite tougher sanctions and renewed speculation of a military strike on its nuclear facilities.

Iranian President Ahmadinejad - AP
AP

The group also is expected to provide details of a letter that European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton sent Iran in October in an effort to bring Iranians back to the table, the diplomat said, saying the letter itself may be released.

The release of the statement, and perhaps the letter itself, are an effort to demonstrate that the major powers are willing to talk to Iran and reiterate their demands that Tehran must return to the table willing to talk about their nuclear program.

Western nations suspect Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons but Tehran says its nuclear program is for civilian energy purposes.

The diplomat said that Iran had been sending mixed signals about whether it might be willing to return to talks in the face of tighter U.S. sanctions focused on its crude oil exports and the possibility of a European Union petroleum embargo.

"This is a way to ensure that our offer is absolutely clear," said the diplomat, adding that the central points of the October letter were that "we are prepared to sit down with you if you are prepared to demonstrate serious intent."

There have been signals in recent weeks that Iran might be willing to hold a new round of talks about its nuclear program.

Iran's foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, on Wednesday said during a visit to Turkey that "negotiations are going on about venue and date. We would like to have these negotiations."

Officials from several of the major powers involved - Britain, China, France, the United States and Russia - denied that any such talks about talks were under way.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday time was running out to avoid a military intervention in Iran and he appealed to China and Russia to support new sanctions to force Tehran to negotiate over its uranium enrichment program.

Western officials say Iran has been asking for talks with major powers "without conditions" as a stalling tactic while refusing to put its nuclear program on the table.

Friday's expected statement follows pleas by Iran's Arab neighbors for major powers to scale back an intensifying confrontation with Tehran that has raised fears of regional conflict.