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Khamenei Has Final Say on Iran-U.S. Talks: FM

Iran's top diplomat on Monday said supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would have the final say on any meeting with U.S. officials, Agence France-Presse reported.

There have been rumblings in recent weeks of a possible sit-down to address Iran's contested atomic program, which Washington and other governments suspect of being aimed at producing a nuclear-weapon capability. Tehran, which denies any military dimension to its effort, this year has met separately with officials from the U.N. nuclear watchdog and a six-nation group comprising China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The talks have not delivered significant advances in resolving the situation.

Officials from Russia and the United Kingdom over the weekend suggested support for bilateral U.S.-Iranian talks, the Financial Times reported.

"A decision on comprehensive, bilateral political talks between the two countries ... is up to the supreme leader," Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said to reporters.

He added: "In a way, we are in contact with the U.S. through negotiations with the P-5+1," which were most recently conducted in June in Moscow.

"We hope the (next) meeting will soon happen. ... We are prepared for the resumption of talks so each side can achieve satisfactory results," Salehi said. European foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and lead Iranian nuclear envoy Saeed Jalili plan to speak by telephone by Nov. 21 "to decide on a venue and date," the official added.

“Iran is expecting the next round (of talks with the P-5+1) for the last week of November because they would host the IAEA delegation in December,” al-Monitor quoted one-time Iranian envoy Hossein Mousavian as saying on Monday. “A political compromise between Iran and the P-5+1 would facilitate an IAEA & Iran agreement on technical issues.”

"No indication as yet" exists regarding the date of new talks between Tehran and Germany and the five permanent U.N. Security Council members, according to an EU representative.

The al-Monitor article affirmed reporting that the Obama administration, newly confirmed for a second term in office, is studying a "more for more" deal in which the United States offers more incentives, including lifting of select economic penalties, in hopes of persuading Iran to accept greater compromises to its nuclear program. Tehran for years has refused to accept any restrictions to its uranium enrichment operations, which can produce reactor fuel as well as nuclear-weapon material.

The idea, which has not been formally discussed with the other P-5+1 states, would derive from an older offer calling for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, ship abroad its current holding of higher-refined material and halt work on its Qum enrichment plant.

A leading point of concern has been Tehran's refinement of uranium to 20 percent, which is seen as a key step toward production of weapon-grade material enriched to roughly 90 percent.

Iran could by spring 2013 hold about 440 pounds of 20 percent-enriched uranium, Kyodo News quoted Institute for Science and International Security President David Albright as saying. That amount, following further refinement, would be sufficient to power a nuclear weapon, the issue expert said.

The estimate appears to be in line with other estimates offered after the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran had processed some of its higher-enriched material into a form that could not easily be used for nuclear weapons.

U.S. national security adviser Tom Donilon held talks on the Iran situation and other issues with his Israeli opposite on Monday in Washington, AFP reported.

Meanwhile, U.S. Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey on Monday rejected Iran's claim that a predator drone entered Iranian airspace on Nov. 1, The Hill reported. Two Iranian fighter aircraft shot at but missed the drone.

“We’re absolutely certain that we were within international airspace, so their attack on the unmanned Predator — despite their assertions otherwise — was clearly a hostile act against our assets,” Dempsey told the Defense Department's Armed Forces Press Service.

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