Israel cautiously welcomes big-power talks with Iran
With Israel speaking increasingly loudly of resorting to military action to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons, the talks could provide some respite in a crisis that has driven up oil prices and threatened to suck the United States into its third major war in a decade.
Tuesday's announcement of new talks followed a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the United States, where President Barack Obama said the talks offered a diplomatic chance to quiet the "drums of war."
"I'm very happy that they are opening discussions," said Netanyahu's national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror.
"There will be no one happier than us, and the prime minister said this in his own voice, if it emerges that in these talks Iran will give up on its military nuclear capability," he told Israel Radio.
Taking up Iran's offer of talks with the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the powers sought assurances on "the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program, while respecting Iran's right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy."
A date and venue for the talks have yet to be agreed.
Past contacts with Tehran, whose often secretive nuclear projects have stirred foreign suspicions of a hidden bomb program, stumbled in disputes over the scale of its uranium enrichment and stockpiling of the fissile material, which can power energy reactors and, if purified further, provide fuel for warheads.
Ahead of his White House meeting with Obama on Monday, Netanyahu demanded Iran's enrichment stop and its uranium with a higher than 3.5 percent purity, the level used for electricity generation, be removed.
Speaking separately to Israel's Army Radio, Netanyahu's cabinet secretary, Zvi Hauser, said those terms held.