Clinton: "We're still open to diplomatic engagement on the Iranian nuclear issue"
The US is still open to diplomatic engagement with Iran over its controversial nuclear program, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the New York Times in an interview published on Saturday. "There are many people, when I was in Kabul (Afghanistan at a recent aid meeting), who reported conversations to me that they were having with the Iranians," said Clinton. "And I was very clear in saying that – to tell them that we remain open to engagement. But they do know what they have to do. They have to reassure the international community by words and actions as to what their nuclear program is intended for." She added that the main concern of both the US and its allies is the possibility of Iran building nuclear bombs. Speaking to newspaper columnists last week, President Barack Obama said the US still wants to engage in talks with Iran over its nuclear program. "It is very important to put before the Iranians a clear set of steps that we would consider sufficient to show that they are not pursuing nuclear weapons," he said. Under a Turkish- and Brazilian-brokered nuclear fuel swap agreement in May, Iran agreed to ship some of its low-enriched uranium in return for nuclear fuel for a research reactor in Tehran to defuse Western suspicions about the goal of its nuclear program. But this didn't dissuade the US and its allies from passing a new round of sanctions against Iran at the UN Security Council in June. The swap deal is still considered a basis for solving the Iranian nuclear issue, and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, in recent weeks, engaged in hectic diplomacy to ensure the resumption of talks between Iran and the P5+1 (five veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany). Davutoglu's efforts paid off, with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili agreeing to restart negotiations next month, probably in Istanbul, using the swap deal as a basis.