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U.S. May Revive 'Secret' Bilateral Talks With Iran

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, seen in February, helped to lead secretive bilateral talks with Iran last year. Washington may revive the negotiating channel in a bid to reach a long-term nuclear deal with the Middle Eastern nation by July, insiders said. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, seen in February, helped to lead secretive bilateral talks with Iran last year. Washington may revive the negotiating channel in a bid to reach a long-term nuclear deal with the Middle Eastern nation by July, insiders said. (U.S. State Department photo)

Washington may revive direct talks with Iran in a bid to settle a protracted nuclear standoff by July, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The secretive diplomatic track last year helped the United States and five other countries to finalize a temporary accord restricting some of Tehran's bomb-usable atomic efforts in return for curbs on economic sanctions. The Obama administration now may adopt a similar approach in attempting to seal a long-term successor to the current deal, which sunsets on July 20, U.S. and European insiders told the newspaper for a Friday report.

No plan for direct talks is final, though, and the possible approach may not come to fruition, the Journal reported.

In talks on a potential long-term deal, direct contact between Washington and Tehran so far has been limited to exchanges on the margins of Iran's meetings with the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany, U.S. and Iranian insiders told al-Monitor for a Thursday report.

One high-level U.S. insider suggested the countries will "need to return to the bilateral track," and argued that any agreement would probably hinge on U.S. and Iranian stances, according to the Journal. Tehran insists its atomic efforts are peaceful, but Washington and its allies doubt that assertion.

Insiders said a U.S. delegation to the potential talks may again be led by two of President Obama's confidants: Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Jake Sullivan, national security adviser to Vice President Joseph Biden. Last year's direct exchanges took place beyond the scrutiny of Israel, Saudi Arabia and other U.S. partners in the Middle East, but sources said any new bilateral discussions could be more transparent.

Meanwhile, Iran and the European Union may convene a senior-level atomic meeting as soon as next week, al-Monitor reported. The potential participants declined to verify the timing or location of any discussion.

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