The United States and five other world powers, meeting Wednesday in New York, reaffirmed their commitment to an early negotiated solution to the long-running standoff with Iran over its nuclear program. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this week has signaled an interest in new talks.
Senior U.S. diplomats say there are "some signs" from Mr. Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials that Tehran may be willing to resume a dialogue this autumn, and that the major powers are also ready to re-engage.
The comments came after an hour-long Iran strategy meeting at the European Union mission in New York of the five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany, the P5+1.
The six-power grouping has had an on-and-off dialogue with Iran over its nuclear intentions, and last October offered to provide Iran with fuel for a Tehran research reactor if it sent abroad part of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium.
In a joint statement, the P5+1 foreign ministers including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reaffirmed their "determination and commitment to an early negotiated solution" to the Iran nuclear issue, and are ready to engage on the nuclear swap deal which Tehran initially accepted but backed away from.
European Union chief diplomat Catherine Ashton spoke for the six powers.
"Our objective continues to be a comprehensive, long-term negotiated solution which restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program, which respecting Iran's legitimate right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy," said Ashton. "We remain determined and united in our efforts for this purpose."
Iranian President Ahmadinejad, in New York for U.N. General Assembly meetings, told reporters Tuesday there is a good chance talks will resume because there is no other alternative.
State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said if Iran is interested in serious dialogue, it need only contact E.U. diplomacy chief Ashton.
"To the extent that President Ahmadinejad has indicated in some of his statements that he's hopeful that talks will resume and perhaps soon, all we would do is encourage him to call Lady Ashton and provide a date and a location," said Crowley. "We've been waiting for Iran to agree to re-engage both within in the P5+1 context and also within the IAEA. We believe that Iran knows Cathy Ashton's number and we would hope that they would call."
A senior U.S. official who spoke to reporters on terms he not be further identified said Iran has significantly expanded its enriched uranium stockpile since the October swap offer. But he said such a deal would still be a confidence-building step and an opening to broader nuclear talks.
Despite Iranian assertions of peaceful intentions, U.S. and European officials believe its enrichment drive is weapons related.
The U.S. official said the six powers, including China which has extensive financial ties to Iran, recommitted to implementing the fourth U.N. sanctions resolution against Iran approved by the Security Council in June.
He said Secretary Clinton had no intention of engaging Iranian officials while in New York, but that some other P5+1 diplomats will meet with them.
Clinton issued a statement condemning a lethal bomb attack Wednesday on Iranians attending a military parade in the northwestern city of Mahabad. She said the United States condemns terrorism and all forms of violence against innocent people, wherever it occurs.