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US: Nuclear ball in Iran’s court

Following the proposal of major powers for nuclear talks in November, a US senior diplomat says the ‘ball is in Iran’s court’ and the West awaits Tehran’s response.

“In fact, as was announced, Catherine Ashton of the EU has extended an invitation for Iran to meet next month in what we hope will be serious discussions on Iran’s nuclear program,” US State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley said on Saturday.

On Thursday, Catherine Ashton proposed three-day talks over Tehran’s nuclear program in mid-November in the Austrian capital of Vienna, expressing hope that Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili would “respond positively” to the offer.

“[Ashton] looks forward to constructively engaging with Iran next month,” her spokesperson said.

Crowley added that as US President Barack Obama had announced earlier, the door to diplomacy is still open for Iran, and the West is “awaiting Iran’s response,” The Hindu reported.

“The door has been open to Iran for some time, and really – literally, the ball is in Iran’s court,” Crowley said. “We hope they’ll respond to Catherine Ashton and hope we can begin a sustained dialogue with Iran.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Friday welcomed Ashton’s offer, saying that as announced earlier, “October or November… is a good time for the re-establishment of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 — China, France, Russia, the UK and the US plus Germany– from Tehran’s perspective.”

Although Iran has announced its readiness to resume talks on its nuclear program, it has also stressed that any negotiations must be conducted within the framework of the Tehran nuclear declaration.

Iran issued a nuclear declaration with Turkey and Brazil based on which Tehran agreed to ship most of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for fuel.

The US and its allies used their influence on the UN Security Council to impose the fourth round of sanctions against Iran over allegations that Tehran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

Iran says its nuclear program is entirely peaceful and within the framework of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, to which it is a signatory.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, in its several reports, has also verified the country’s non-diversion from peaceful purposes.

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