US ‘increasingly skeptical’ about dialogue with Iran

The United States said Tuesday it was growing “increasingly skeptical” that dialogue will end the nuclear standoff with Iran even as Brazil, Turkey and other countries pursued mediation efforts.

“We do recognize the value and importance of a variety of countries engaging Iran,” State Department Philip Crowley told reporters.

“There is a two-track process here, engagement and pressure, and the foreign minister told the secretary that Brazil continues to see… what can be achieved on this engagement process,” Crowley said.

He was alluding to the talks Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had Monday with Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim on the sidelines of the ongoing nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference in New York.

“As the secretary said yesterday, I think we’re increasingly skeptical that the Iranians are going to change their course absent… a real significant, powerful statement by the international community,” the spokesman said.

But Crowley stressed that “we hope that these efforts by Turkey, Brazil and others might be successful.”

“I think we are all sending the same message: that Iran has to answer the questions that the international community has,” Crowley said.

“It needs to respond in a formal and meaningful way to the offer that was put on the table last fall. There may still be a difference of opinion as to where we are in this process,” he said.

Western powers suspect Tehran is using uranium enrichment as a cover to acquire nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying its sole ambition is to develop peaceful nuclear power.

Last October the United Nations drafted a deal to supply nuclear fuel for a Tehran research reactor by shipping out Iran’s low-enriched uranium in return for higher-grade nuclear fuel produced by Russia and France, but the deal has hit a deadlock.

The United States is spearheading a push for tougher sanctions in the 15-member UN Security Council against Iran for its refusal to halt enrichment. Resisting the drive are China, along with Brazil, Turkey and Lebanon.