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World Powers Discuss Iran Policy


Representatives from the United States, Russia, China and three European Union nations have been meeting in Germany to discuss steps to take in dealing with Iran and its nuclear program. Analysts say there is a shift in tone toward Iran that may translate into tangible advances with a new administration in Washington.

The meeting outside Frankfurt, Germany, of the six powers - the United States, Russia, China, Germany, France and Britain - began two days after Iran announced it had launched its first satellite, notching up tensions. Iran and world powers have been at odds over Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran says is meant for peaceful purposes of generating energy, but others fear is aimed at building nuclear weapons.

But there is also a change in tone with the Barack Obama administration signaling a new emphasis on diplomacy.

Shada Islam, a senior analyst at the European Policy Center in Brussels, says the new tone in Washington will make a difference.

"I think it does make a difference because the general environment under which these talks are taking place is very different from under the Bush administration," Islam said. "We have had President Obama going on television and saying he is ready to talk to Iran as long as Iran comes with an unclenched fist."

"Also, they are ready for direct diplomacy, negotiations, discussions. I think this conveys a completely different ambiance and context for discussions. Having said that, I do not expect quick fixes and miracles. This is going to take time," he added.

Some nations have signaled they are willing to adopt a tougher approach. In a joint statement published in French and German newspapers, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said they would support new U.N. sanctions if Iran did not abandon its nuclear program. One option may be commercial sanctions, but Islam believes Europeans may not be enthusiastic about this since a number of European countries depend on Iranian oil and gas.

Shada Islam also believes Iran may not offer a clear response to the Obama administration - at least not right now.

"They have got elections coming up, there is a great deal of rivalry within Iran, within the government between the reformists and the conservatives and you have seen they have just launched their first satellite as well," he said. "So I think Iran is always going to be a tough nut to crack, but I think it is worth a try."

In published remarks, a representative of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said strained ties with the United States would not change under President Obama.

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