Iran, U.S. prepare for 'last chance' nuclear talks

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urges Arab states to take a greater role in tackling the Middle East's most formidable problems.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 12, 2011; 6:44 PM

DOHA, QATAR - Iran has escalated its routine bluster in the run-up to next week's nuclear talks in Istanbul, suggesting the Jan. 21-22 meeting could be a "last chance" for major powers to strike a deal. On Wednesday, it had its reply from the United States' top diplomat: Get serious.

Iran should "come to the meeting prepared for . . . serious discussions," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said after meetings with Arab leaders in Qatar's capital, Doha.

U.S. officials have spoken confidently in recent days about the heavy toll that sanctions are having on Iran's economy, and some have expressed optimism that the country's ruling clerics may soon seek a bargain that would include permanently abandoning its pursuit of nuclear weapons. But publicly, Iran has remained combative, as shown by the "last chance" warning this week by its top nuclear negotiator, Ali Asghar Soltanieh.

Clinton made no predictions but laid out a simple agenda for the meeting between Iran and the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany.

The six powers "will focus on practical steps that Iran must take to address the international communities' concerns" about possible cheating by Iran on its nuclear agreements, she said, adding that the outcome would be a "settlement that will hold Iran to its responsibilities."

Iran has repeatedly said it does not intend to build nuclear weapons.

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