- Iran has indicated it's ready to resume negotiations over its nuclear program
- The EU challenges Tehran to follow through and return to talks with world leaders
- The EU is expected to announce tough new sanctions against Iran Monday
With fresh sanctions looming from the European Union, Iran has indicated it's ready to immediately resume talks with the international community over its nuclear program. On Friday, the international community challenged Iran to do just that.
The office of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton released the contents of an October letter to Iran. In it, Ashton wrote that world powers are open to negotiations if Iran is serious about addressing its nuclear program without preconditions.
Ashton's spokesperson pointedly noted, "We are waiting for the Iranian reaction."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters in Washington that "we stand by that letter."
"We all are seeking clarity about the meaning behind Iran's public statements that they are willing to engage," Clinton said, "but we have to see a seriousness and sincerity of purpose coming from them."
In the letter to Iran, Ashton wrote that the West wants to "engage in a confidence-building exercise" that would lead to a "constructive dialogue" and a "step by step approach" in which Iran would assure the international community that its nuclear program is peaceful.
Asked what those confidence-building steps are, Clinton said, "They have to give up their nuclear weapons program ... and they have to be willing to come to the table with a plan to do that.
"I think what's important is that confidence will start with their conveying a seriousness of purpose to engage with us and our partners," Clinton said. "That would build confidence. And then the additional steps will await the actual resumption of negotiations."
Clinton made the comments after a meeting at the State Department with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
The German minister was blunt in his assessment of Iran's actions: "Tehran keeps violating its international obligations on the transparency of its nuclear program. We have no choice but to pass tough new sanctions that address the financial sources of the nuclear program."
The EU is expected to announce the sanctions on Iran's oil industry Monday. The move, which was widely expected, follows similar actions by the United States and the United Kingdom. They are all aimed at increasing pressure on Tehran to give up its nuclear program, which Iran says is for peaceful purposes buy many suspect is intended to produce a bomb.
"One thing is clear," Westerwelle added. "The door for serious dialogue remains open, but the option of nuclear weapons in Iran is not acceptable to both of us."
"We are ready for serious dialogue and substantial talks," he cautioned. "Just to meet for show, that this meeting would be misused for propaganda, is not what we want to do."