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As Tensions Grow Between Iran, Israel, U.S., a Turn to Diplomacy

March 7, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Next tonight, a turn to diplomacy as tensions grow between the U.S., Iran and Israel.

Jeffrey Brown has the story.

JEFFREY BROWN: Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency was all smiles this morning as the U.N. agency’s board met in Vienna.

ALI ASGHAR SOLTANIEH, chief Iranian envoy to International Atomic Energy Agency: Everything under control.

JEFFREY BROWN: Ali Asghar Soltanieh’s show of confidence came after a new diplomatic initiative. On Tuesday, the U.S., France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China agreed to Iran’s offer for new talks about its nuclear program.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, made the announcement in response to a letter from Iran last month.

CATHERINE ASHTON, European Union: We hope that we will be able to now pursue with Iran constructive engagement, with the purpose of addressing the international community’s concerns about the nuclear program.

JEFFREY BROWN: Iran also agreed Tuesday to allow U.N. inspectors inside the Parchin military complex for the first time, after previously denying such access. The Parchin site has been the subject of Western suspicions that secret nuclear weapons work is going on there, something Iran denies.

At his White House news conference yesterday, President Obama said he still has hopes sanctions and diplomacy will provide a solution.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We have a window through which we can resolve this issue peacefully. We have put forward an international framework that is applying unprecedented pressure. And we’ve got the opportunity, even as we maintain that pressure, to see how it plays out.

JEFFREY BROWN: But the diplomatic path also has its doubters. And tensions have increased.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned against new talks with Iran in a speech last Friday in Canada.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Israeli prime minister: It could pursue or exploit the talks, as they have done in the past, to deceive and to delay, so that they can continue to advance their nuclear program and get to the nuclear finish line by running the clock.

JEFFREY BROWN: And in Paris today, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said he, too, has reservations.

ALAIN JUPPE, French Foreign Minister (through translator): I think Iran is continuing to use doublespeak. That’s the reason why we must remain extremely firm on the sanctions we have decided upon, which are, from my point of view, the best way to avoid a military option, which could have immeasurable consequences.

JEFFREY BROWN: Meanwhile, late reports at the Vienna meeting said satellite photos show the Iranians may now be trying to clean up radiation at the Parchin complex.