U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday promised to launch a new diplomatic push to solve the longstanding crisis over Iran's disputed nuclear program, AFP reported.
Obama said there was still a "window of time" to end the standoff. His comments came amid speculation about possible direct U.S. talks with Iran, which surfaced just before the U.S. elections, and has gone up in volume since Obama's reelection.
Iran, reeling from international sanctions over its nuclear program, has not ruled out direct talks with Washington but says these will not come overnight.
"With respect to Iran, I very much want to see a diplomatic resolution to the problem," Obama told a White House press conference, according to AFP.
"I will try to make a push in the coming months to see if we can open up a dialogue between Iran and not just us, but the international community, to see if we can get this thing resolved," he added.
He was careful to stress that Washington remains adamantly opposed to letting Iran obtain a nuclear weapon, but added, "There is still a window of time for us it resolve this diplomatically."
Obama cited crippling sanctions imposed on Iran by the UN Security Council and unilateral Western restrictions on Tehran's oil sector and banks, calling them the "toughest sanctions in history."
"There should be a way in which they can enjoy peaceful nuclear power while still meeting their international obligations and providing clear assurances to the international community that they're not pursuing a nuclear weapon," Obama said. "I can't promise that Iran will walk through the door that they need to walk through. But that would be very much the preferable option."
Obama nonetheless denied that talks with Iran were imminent.
"I think it is fair to say that we want to get this resolved and we're not going to be constrained by diplomatic niceties or protocols if Iran is serious about wanting to resolve this," the president added.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Monday that any "decision on comprehensive, bilateral political talks between the two countries... is up to the supreme leader," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
A new United Nations nuclear watchdog report is to reveal that Iran has completed installation of 2,700 centrifuges at its underground Fordow plant, enabling it to speed up production of 20 percent pure enriched uranium that could be used for manufacturing a nuclear weapon.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported in August that approximately 700 of 2000 centrifuges were in operation, but it will report a dramatic increase in production on Friday.
The Fordow uranium enrichment facility has been built under concrete bunkers and is buried deep in a mountain range, making it almost invulnerable to an aerial attack.
Despite the rapid advancement in Iran’s nuclear program, the major world powers, known as “P5+1 – the Us, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany – still are planning more attempts at diplomatic talks.
Western diplomats said last month that it appears as though Tehran is in its final stages of placing centrifuges in the Fordow facility.
The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Fereidoun Abbasi, confirmed two weeks ago that Iran is completing its nuclear activities as scheduled “regardless of the negative western media speculations and reports.”