By Adam Levine
Iran would be willing to sit down for direct talks with the United States, the country's ambassador to the United Nations said in an interview broadcast on CNN.
"I can confirm it here with you, and also for your distinguished audience, that Iran will come negotiation and direct talks with the United States provided that we make sure that U.S. is serious and do not act differently," Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee told CNN's Fareed Zakaria in an interview that aired on Fareed Zakaria GPS.
Khazaee said Iranians felt that at last week's negotiation with the United States and other aligned nations, "both sides are getting closer to each other."
By Ivan Watson
Diplomats emerged Wednesday from an unusually secretive round of talks over Iran's controversial nuclear program with a joint announcement to hold a follow-up meeting within weeks.
In a joint statement, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and the chief Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili, announced that technical experts would meet in Istanbul, Turkey, on March 18.
Political directors would later reconvene in this snowbound Kazakhstani city on April 5.
Iranian negotiators and representatives of the P5 plus 1 nations - the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany - entered into the talks Tuesday in Almaty, Kazakhstan, before the backdrop of fresh international economic sanctions against Iran.
Their crippling effect has fueled resentment in Tehran.
By Elise Labott
Expectations are low for a breakthrough with Iran in the latest round of nuclear negotiations in Kazakhstan, but relations between the Unites States and the Iranian people are proving much more promising.
U.S. wrestlers visited Tehran last week to compete in the World Cup, where they received a warm welcome by Iranian fans at the capital's Azadi Stadium.
And now, CNN has learned, eight Iranian museum specialists on Monday began a three-week visit to the United States as part of a State Department cultural exchange program.
The five-city tour includes stops in Washington, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles, where the group will learn about best practices in securing and displaying art exhibits from curators and archeologists at some of the most popular American museums including the National Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum. They will also visit universities and meet with other art-related organizations.
The U.S. does not have government-to-government exchanges with Iran, so the visitors will not meet with any American officials.
By Ivan Watson
Talks began Tuesday between six world powers and Iran over its controversial nuclear program for the first time in nearly eight months.
But the mood going into the negotiations was as gloomy as the fog that hung over this snowbound Central Asian city.
"I don't think tomorrow (Tuesday) is likely to be a day in which we can announce a great success," a diplomat participating in the negotiations told journalists on condition of anonymity on the eve of the first meeting.
Other officials were not so optimistic either.
"Most probably, the negotiations in Almaty will fail," said Hossein Mousavian, who served as Iran's nuclear negotiator until 2005.
Iran has held several rounds of negotiations with the P5 plus 1, which comprises Germany and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The five members are the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China.
By Elise Labott
Kazakhstan, the venue for the latest round of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers, offers the kind of symbolism the United States hopes will serve as a model for Iran.
The former Soviet Republic gave up a formidable nuclear stockpile after achieving independence in the 1990s and now is in negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency to host a bank of nuclear fuel that would eliminate the need for a county like Iran to enrich uranium for themselves.
"Kazakhstan made very, very fundamental decisions to give up their nuclear weapons, to have a peaceful civil nuclear program," a senior U.S. official told reporters in Almaty, the nation's former capital. "In many ways, they are a model of what is possible."
From 1949 through 1989, the Soviet Union conducted hundreds of nuclear tests and experiments, both underground and above ground, at Kazakhstan's Semipalatinsk test site.
By Elise Labott
Iran has begun installing advanced new centrifuges at its main uranium enrichment site at Natanz that are capable of accelerating production of fuel for a nuclear weapon, a move that senior U.S. officials warned could jeopardize upcoming talks aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions.
The disturbing revelation comes as the "P5 plus one" diplomatic bloc of countries is preparing to offer a package of incentives to Iran to close its underground facility at Fordow and ship out its stockpile of uranium already enriched to a high purity level of 20%.
"This can't help the talks," a senior US official said.
The P5 plus one bloc consists of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.
By Elise Labott
World powers plan to make Iran a "serious" offer of economic incentives at talks next week on its nuclear program, Western officials tell CNN.
In exchange for easing of sanctions barring trade with Iran in gold and other precious metals, the so-called P5+1 diplomatic bloc of countries wants Iran to shut its underground enrichment facility at Fordo, near the holy city of Qom and ship out its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20% purity, the officials said.
The group, comprised of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, plans to deliver the offer at talks next Tuesday in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
The offer presents a slightly revised package to the one presented to Iran last year during talks in Moscow, Baghdad and Istanbul, in which the group proposed fuel for a medical reactor and easing sanctions on aviation spare parts in exchange for Iran suspending its uranium enrichment and shipping its stockpiles out of the country.
"We couldn't come back with the same proposal," one official said. "But the idea is to test the waters and see where the Iranians are and if they are serious. We hope to get some insight into their thinking and see what they prioritize in their asks and offers." FULL POST
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad joked he is so serious about making sure Iran advances technologically that he'd volunteer to go to space for his country if needed.
"I am ready to be the first human to be sent to space by Iranian scientists," he said after meeting Monday with Iranian space scientists, according to the semi-official Mehr News Agency.
The president's comments, made in jest, came a week after the state's semi-official Fars News Agency said Iran had "sent a monkey to the orbit, brought it back to the Earth and retrieved the animal and the relevant data successfully."
Meantime, several Iranian news organizations sought to explain why there appeared to be two different monkeys portrayed by the press.
"There are a lot of questions about whether the monkey that they reportedly sent up into space and reportedly came down was actually the same monkey, whether he survived," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. "The monkey that they showed later seemed to have different."
Iranian news organizations explained that the monkey shown in the pre-launch photos was actually from a failed launch in 2001. Iranians still insist that the monkey went up to space, came back alive and the launch was successful.
By Joe Sterling, Jessica Yellin and Holly Yan
Sen. John Kerry, the president's nominee for secretary of state, put America's anxiety over Iran front and center during his confirmation hearing, saying the "questions surrounding Iran's nuclear program" must be resolved.
"The president has made it definitive," Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday during what is expected to be an easy confirmation process.
"We will do what we must do to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and I repeat here today, our policy is not containment. It is prevention, and the clock is ticking on our efforts to secure responsible compliance."FULL STORY
By Barbara Starr
While there have been months of dire predictions from the Pentagon about spending cuts, one of the most visible for the military could resonate across the Middle East at a time when uncertainty continues to grip the region.
The U.S. Navy may face the prospect of not being able to routinely keep two aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf region, which has been a longtime requirement for any ability to launch military campaigns in that part of the world.
The United States would have to scale back to one carrier in the region if Congress can't avoid deep automatic spending cuts, including some $500 billion directed at the Pentagon over 10 years, a U.S. military official directly familiar with the Navy's latest preliminary budget analysis tells CNN.
The Navy has kept an on-and-off presence with two carriers in the Gulf region during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.