by Ray Fleming

It is difficult to know whether or not yesterday's news from the European Union about talks with Iran on its nuclear programme was synchronised with the US-Israeli talks on Monday on the same subject. New talks with Tehran would fit President Obama's belief in the desirability of trying for further negotiations but not with prime minister Netanyahu's insistence that time is short if Iran is to be stopped from making nuclear weapons.

If talks are resumed they will be coordinated by the so-called P5 plus 1 group (UN Security Council members plus Germany) whose last talks with Iran broke down almost exactly one year ago. Since then the EU's diplomatic and security chief, Catherine Ashton, has been in regular touch with Iran's chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, and it was his most recent communication that proposed renewal of the talks. This initiative may follow from the changes in power bases in Tehran after the recent elections. It is easy to be cynical about the prospects for any useful outcome with Tehran when so many attempts in the past have failed, usually because of Iran's unwillingness to provide technical information needed by the P5 plus 1 group to assess the status of its nuclear development. Nonetheless, it would be wrong not to try again given that a military strike might not be successful and could have dangerous unanticipated consequences.

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