|Talks will give a sense of the road ahead with the new Iranian government, U.S. says||
TEHRAN – Planned talks this week between Iran and six world powers including the United States may show whether Tehran is serious about resolving a dispute over its nuclear program, a senior U.S. official said on Monday, Reuters reported.
The European Union announced on Monday that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif would join a meeting of major powers - including Britain, France, China, Russia, and the United States and Germany - to discuss the Iranian nuclear program.
"This opportunity with the Iranian foreign minister will give our ministers a sense of their level of seriousness and whether they are coming with concrete new proposals…," the senior U.S. State Department official told reporters.
Speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, U.S. officials made clear that they are looking for Iran, at some point, to provide a formal response to a proposal that the six powers made to Tehran in February.
The group, which is made up of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany and is known as the P5+1, offered Iran some sanctions relief in exchange for suspending medium-level enrichment.
The United States and many of its allies suspect that Iran is using its civil nuclear program as a cover to develop atomic weapons. Iran denies this, saying its nuclear program is for solely peaceful purposes.
While suggesting that they did not necessarily expect Iran to provide a substantive response to the February proposal this week, it was clear that U.S. officials want this to happen and that they see it as a key barometer of Iran's seriousness.
"There is a sense that we never actually got a firm response or a detailed response to that," the senior U.S. official said.
"This first session at the level of ministers, where the Iranians will join a meeting already in progress, will give a sense of the road ahead with the new government," the official said. "That would obviously, we would hope, include a real response to the proposal that's been on the table for some time."
U.S. officials, however, said they did not wish to set an expectation that Iran would necessarily address this issue in Thursday's meeting, which will be attended by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
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