World powers to talk on Iran next month

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The major world powers considering sanctions against Iran will resume their talks in the new year.

Representatives of the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France and Germany had a phone consultation Tuesday to discuss next steps now that Iran has rebuffed an offer to assist its civilian nuclear program in exchange for greater transparency in its alleged nuclear weapons program. Iran has until the end of this year to reverse its refusal.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the powers would resume talks in January and would not refer the matter for now to the U.N. Security Council, which has the power to enhance existing sanctions against Iran. All of the major powers on the phone call, with the exception of Germany, are permanent, veto-wielding members of the Council.

Separately, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs warned that "preparations have begun" for next steps should Iran fail to meet its Dec. 31 deadline on the major powers’ offer.

"Mr. Ahmadinejad may not recognize, for whatever reason, the deadline that looms, but that is a very real deadline for the international community," Gibbs said, referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  "And I think all of those involved in the" major powers "would encourage Iran to take that deadline as seriously as it’s being taken by us to live up to their responsibilities. It is in his control what Iran decides to do."

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