Hopes riding on talks to defuse tense Iran situation

Israel has kept up warnings of air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities to prevent the Islamic republic obtaining a nuclear weapons capability.

Tehran: Hopes are riding high that mooted
talks between Iran and world powers will de-escalate a
dangerous showdown over Tehran`s controversial nuclear programme.

While Iran and the so-called P5+1 comprising the five UN Security Council permanent members plus Germany, are expected
to soon agree a date and place for reviving their long-stalled
talks, the spectre of military confrontation looms large.

Israel has kept up warnings of air strikes on Iranian
nuclear facilities to prevent the Islamic republic obtaining a
nuclear weapons capability.

A majority of Israel`s 14-member security cabinet now
supports Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence
Minister Ehud Barak in launching a pre-emptive attack on Iran
in a bid to end its nuclear programme, the Israeli newspaper
Maariv reported on Thursday, citing political sources it did
not identify.

Israel is very close to the point when a very tough
decision should be made -- the bomb or the bombing," former
military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin told reporters last

The United States, meanwhile, is positioning three of its
aircraft carriers near Iran, according to the US navy on its
official website.

The USS Enterprise a week ago left its home port to join
the USS Abraham Lincoln and USS Carl Vinson that are already
in the region. The Lincoln in January sailed through the
strategic Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf, testing Iranian
threats against the Vinson in that body of water.

The US navy is also doubling the number of minesweeping
ships and helicopters based in the Gulf, according to
testimony by its chief, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, to US

US President Barack Obama has warned that Iran`s leaders
have to understand that "the window for solving this issue
diplomatically is shrinking."

Iran maintains its nuclear programme is purely peaceful
even though this year it blocked UN inspectors from visiting a
specific area of a military base suspected to have hosted
nuclear warhead research.

Tehran on Wednesday made a formal request to schedule the
time and place for "constructive, serious" talks with the
P5+1, which it agreed to on February 14 after an initial offer
made back in October by EU foreign policy chief Catherine

The last round of negotiations with the P5+1 collapsed in
Istanbul in January 2011.

Iran`s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, though, has
told the West to drop the "illusion" that its economic
sanctions against his country will force a change of heart
over nuclear policy.

Khamenei has called nuclear weapons a "sin". Iran has
stressed that it seeks only civilian uses from splitting the
atom, such as nuclear energy and medical isotopes.


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