U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday said he anticipates a "good meeting" with delegates from Iran and five other countries, but the top diplomat avoided saying how the Middle Eastern nation could prove it sincerely wants to dispel international fears over its atomic activities, Reuters reported.
Kerry is scheduled at 4 p.m. to join Iranian Foreign Mohammad Javad Zarif and equivalent-level officials from China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom. The five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany have joined Iran in years of on-and-off talks aimed at clearing up global worries that Tehran's nuclear program is directed secretly toward arms development.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said time is running short to defuse the standoff, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
"We need resolution in a reasonable time," he said in an interview. "If it’s three months that would be Iran’s choice, if it’s six months that’s still good. It’s a question of months not years."
He separately played down a scuttled proposal for a face-to-face encounter with President Obama, the Christian Science Monitor reported.
"The U.S. proposed a meeting and we were not opposed. This is a very sensitive subject. We have not talked at that level for 35 years. We must take these steps carefully,” he told journalists on Wednesday.
"We are ready to negotiate, but we didn’t have enough time to make that happen,” he added.
Some observers believe Washington and Tehran already may have engaged in behind-the-scenes talks on a possible uranium-enrichment compromise, the Los Angeles Times reported. That enrichment process can generate material for peaceful use, but its ability to also produce nuclear-bomb fuel has made it a central issue of dispute between the sides.
"Because the Iranians have never agreed to any [enrichment] limits," Washington has no formal stance on whether it would tolerate an Iranian uranium refinement program under certain circumstances, said Gary Samore, who in February stepped down as President Obama's WMD czar.
Rouhani, though, said his country now is open to an across-the-board discussion of its enrichment practices.
“Whether it’s 20 percent enrichment or 5 percent enrichment, all of those can be placed on the table and examined,” he said. “The endgame is the removal of everyone’s concerns, and the restoration of Iran’s rights” to refine uranium.