U.S.: Time for Reaching Diplomatic Solution to Iran Nuclear Standoff Limited

In briefing, White House spokesman says Obama administrations top priority is Iran's cessation of 20%-grade uranium enrichment in its Fordo underground facility.

Time is not infinite for nuclear talks between Iran and the West, a White House said on Monday, five days before a planned round of talks was set to begin, adding that the window of opportunity in which a diplomatic solution can be reached is closing.

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Isfahan nuclear facility - AP - 2005

In a briefing by White House press secretary Jay Carney, the U.S. official said that, as a first priority ahead of nuclear talks, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama put the cessation of Iran's enrichment of 20 percent grade uranium in its underground facility in Fordo.

However, Carney added, the "bottom line" in upcoming talks would be to get Tehran to relinquish its nuclear aspirations altogether, ceasing all enrichment activities in the country.

"But there is enough time and enough space at this moment to pursue a diplomatic solution - thats why the resumption of these talks is important," the U.S. official said.

Carney's comments came following remarks by Iran's nuclear chief, who hinted on Sunday that the Islamic Republic may offer a compromise ahead of negotiations with the West next week.

Iran's nuclear chief Fereidoun Abbasi told state TV late Sunday that Tehran could stop its production of 20 percent enriched uranium needed for a research reactor, and continue enriching uranium to lower levels for power generation.

This could take place once Iran has stockpiled enough of the 20 percent enriched uranium, Abbasi said.

Late last week, the Washington Post reported that Obama recently passed a message to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei which signaled that the United States would agree to an Iranian civilian nuclear program if they proved they were not developing a nuclear bomb.

According to David Ignatius, the Washington Post's senior columnist specializing in intelligence matters, Obama passed Khamenei the message through Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who visited Tehran this week.

Obama reportedly signaled Khamenei that the U.S. would be prepared to accept a civilian nuclear program in Iran, should the Iranian leader take steps that would support his public declarations in February, in which he said that Iran "would never develop nuclear weapons." The U.S., Obama also wrote, would also expect Iranian leaders to prove that Tehran does not have a military nuclear program.