EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton announced on Tuesday that world powers, including the US and Germany, are ready to resume talks with Iran on its nuclear program, more than a year after previous talks failed.
The EU announced on Tuesday that talks with Iran on its nuclear program are to resume, after previous negotiations stalled last January.
"Our overall goal remains a comprehensive negotiated, long-term solution which restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program, while respecting Iran's right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy," Ashton said in a statement.
Ashton, who represents the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany in negotiations with Iran, said the exact time and date of the talks had yet to be set.
The announcement came after the US, during a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, made it clear it would not rule out military action to prevent what western powers believe is Iran's intention to build nuclear weapons.
"Military action is the last alternative when all else fails," US Defense Minister Leon Panetta reiterated on Tuesday. "But make no mistake, we will act if we have to."
Israel sees Iran as an existential threat and although netanyahu thanked Obama for his support, he still said Israel might strike out against Iran on its own if it saw the need.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, meanwhile, agreed that "a nuclear-armed Iran must be prevented," but called for a diplomatic solution.
Shortly before Ashton's announcement, Russia said negotiations should resume as soon as possible, as a letter sent to Ashton by Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili showed that Iran was ready to talk again.
Iran insists its atomic program is purely for peaceful reasons.
IAEA granted access to key site
Meanwhile, Iran has agreed to grant inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to its Parchin compound, which the IAEA had demanded for some time.
Iran says the base is a military site, not a nuclear facility, but western powers have long suspected it to be a base for nuclear experiments. Last November, an IAEA report said Tehran may have conducted high-explosives experiments at Parchin that would be "strong indicators" of an effort to design atomic bombs.
ng/msh (AP, Reuters)