September 27, 2012 / 9:59 PM / in 6 years

U.S. official sees eventual resumption of Iran nuclear talks

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United States expects major powers’ consultations on Iran’s nuclear program to continue and eventually lead to another round of talks with Tehran, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday.

The official, speaking after talks among representatives of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - United States, France, Britain, Russia and China - and Germany at the United Nations, said “at some point” the group would likely return for a fourth round of talks with Iran.

“I think we’ve got some additional work to do first, so I would not expect that to happen immediately, but I would hope that we will get there in the not-too-distant future,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The push comes at a time when tensions between Iran and Israel are rising and diplomatic efforts to resolve the decade-long dispute over Iran’s nuclear work have foundered.

Israel, the United States, the European Union and their allies say Iran is amassing the capability to produce a nuclear bomb, an allegation the Islamic Republic denies.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew his “red line” for Iran’s nuclear program on Thursday, despite a U.S. refusal to set an ultimatum, saying Tehran will be on the brink of a nuclear weapon in less than a year.

The six world powers, represented by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, have sought to persuade Iran to scale back the enrichment of uranium through intensifying economic sanctions and diplomacy.

They have failed to reach a breakthrough in three rounds of talks since April.

Western sanctions on Iran tightened markedly this year with an EU ban on crude oil purchases from Iran and U.S. sanctions targeting banks that deal with Iran’s central bank. However, they have not yielded tangible progress toward a diplomatic solution.

U.N. diplomats say the possibility of further U.N. Security Council sanctions is slim because Russia and China are opposed to the idea. There was no sign the issue was discussed on Thursday.

After the talks on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Ashton said the powers had discussed the need for Iran to take action urgently regarding its nuclear issue and planned to contact Tehran to continue the process.

“We have to ensure that we aren’t going to have talks for talks’ sake, and we have some reason to believe that they will move to a point of seriousness, but we will test this out every step of the way,” the U.S. official said.

Reporting By Andrew Quinn; Writing by John Irish; Editing by Stacey Joyce

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