Efforts to find a diplomatic solution to Iran's disputed nuclear programme appeared to get a boost when world powers agreed to a new round of talks with Tehran, and Iran gave permission for inspectors to visit a site suspected of secret atomic work.
The two developments appeared to counter somewhat the crisis atmosphere over Iran's nuclear programme, the focus of talks in Washington between President Barack Obama and Israel's visiting Prime Minister.
Speaking at his first news conference this year, Obama said he saw a “window of opportunity” to use diplomacy instead of military force to resolve the dispute over Iran’s programme. Obama said his policy on Iran is not one of containment, but of stopping Tehran from acquiring a nuke weapon.
The US and its allies say Iran is on a path that could eventually lead to the production of a nuclear weapon. Iran denies that, insisting that its program is for energy production and other peaceful purposes.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and Germany agreed to a new round of nuclear talks with Iran more than a year after suspending them in frustration.