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Iran Offers To Resume Nuclear Talks, Allow Inspectors Into Military Site


A poster of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini is seen next to bank of centrifuges in what is described by Iranian state television as a facility in Natanz.

A poster of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini is seen next to bank of centrifuges in what is described by Iranian state television as a facility in Natanz.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany have agreed to a proposal from Iran to resume talks on Tehran's nuclear program.

EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is the contact person for the group, announced on March 6 she had responded to a February letter from Iranian nuclear negotiator Said Jalili proposing new discussions.

The time and venue of the talks between Tehran and the six powers -- the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany -- have not yet been agreed.

Jalili said in a letter sent on February 14 that Tehran was ready to resume the deadlocked talks at the "earliest" opportunity, on the condition that its right to peaceful atomic energy will be respected.

The West has voiced concerns that Iran's nuclear program has a weapons dimension. Iran denies any effort to develop nuclear arms.

In a statement, Ashton expressed hope that Iran would enter a "sustained process of constructive dialogue which will deliver real progress in resolving the international community's long-standing concerns on its nuclear program."

In Berlin, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told a news conference that Tehran should make the most of the opportunity offered by the international community.

"Iran should take our constructive reply letter as an occasion to respond constructively and with transparency to the international community. Germany is ready to engage in a serious and substantial dialogue with Iran on its nuclear program," Westerwelle said.

IAEA Inspection 'Possible'

Ashton's statement came as Iran on March 6 said it would be willing to allow inspectors from the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit its Parchin military complex, which the West believes is part of a suspected Iranian nuclear weapons program.

IAEA inspectors last visited Parchin in 2005, and IAEA teams that recently visited Iran were not permitted to go there.

A statement from Iran's mission to the IAEA in Vienna quoted by Iran's state media said that visits to the Parchin complex cannot be permitted frequently because accessing the base is "a time-consuming process."

However, the statement said one future IAEA visit could be arranged.

The IAEA has recently reiterated that it continues to have strong concerns that Iran's nuclear program has a weapons dimension.

These developments come at a time of heightened tensions between Iran and Israel, which has not ruled out possible military strikes against Tehran aimed at destroying its nuclear installations.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has pledged the United States will "act" if "all else fails" to counter Iran's suspected nuclear threat.

Speaking in Washington on March 6 at a conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, the U.S. defense chief pledged to ensure Israel's "military superiority over any state or coalition of states, as well as nonstate actors."

Panetta spoke after U.S. President Barack Obama on March 5 said he would "take no options off the table" to counter Iran's nuclear ambitions, but also warned against "too much loose talk of war."

Panetta on March 5 met with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who also held talks with Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Netanyahu told Obama on March 5 that Israel must remain "master of its fate" and "has the right, the sovereign right, to make its own decisions."

Obama and Netanyahu held a closed-door meeting at the White House, which the U.S. leader said would focus mainly on Iran's nuclear program.

With AP, AFP, dpa, and Reuters reporting

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