February 26, 2013 - 09:10 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - A new round of talks between world powers and Iran over its controversial nuclear program are set to open in the Kazakh city of Almaty, BBC News says.
The discussions on Tuesday, Feb 26, are the first since talks in June 2012 ended without a breakthrough. Negotiators from Iran will meet counterparts from the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany - the P5+1.
International powers suspect Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons - a charge Iran strongly denies. Iran insists its purposes are purely civilian, asserting it needs enriched uranium to make medical isotopes.
Since 2010, Iran has been enriching uranium to a level of 20%, an important technological step towards being able to produce more highly enriched weapons-grade material.
Iran has repeatedly rejected Western calls to stop enriching uranium, insisting it is an inalienable right.
Ahead of the meeting, Western diplomats said Iran would be offered incentives to compromise. This might involve easing some of the sanctions which have been imposed on Iran, in return for shutting its Fordo uranium enrichment plant.
Several rounds of sanctions have squeezed Iran's economy, with oil revenue slashed, a currency that has nosedived in value, and growing unemployment.
The talks are taking place against a background of Israeli warnings that it will stop Iran's program militarily if other means fail.
Speaking in London on Monday, new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said time for a diplomatic solution was running short.
"The window for a diplomatic solution simply cannot by definition remain open forever. But it is open today. It is open now," he said. "There is still time but there is only time if Iran makes the decision to come to the table and negotiate in good faith."
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters in Almaty "no more time should be lost".
"One gets the impression that on the whole there is not too much readiness or desire to agree. This should be overcome," Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.
10 days earlier, Iran announced an upgrade to its Natanz nuclear plant centrifuges - believed to be able to enrich uranium two or three times faster than the old equipment.
A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last week said it could not yet "exclude the existence of possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program".