ISTANBUL: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton conferred with Turkey's prime minister about his nuclear discussions with Iran as the United States began intensively preparing for a round of negotiations between Tehran and world powers to take place within two weeks.
The meeting came a day after Clinton announced that Istanbul would host the Apr. 13 talks on Iran's uranium enrichment program, which have taken on added urgency amid speculation that Israel or the U.S. could take military action later this year. Clinton made clear Saturday that time is running out for diplomacy.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently went to Iran on a two-day state visit and held a series of discussions with leaders of the Islamic republic on its disputed nuclear program. Washington and its allies see Iran trying to develop an atomic bomb. Tehran says its program is for peaceful energy and research purposes.
Erdogan will give Clinton his take on where Iran stands, U.S. officials said on condition of anonymity ahead of the meeting.
But Washington and its NATO ally haven't seen eye-to-eye on the Iranian threat.
Erdogan has built close economic ties with Iran and has tried to act as a go-between on the disputed nuclear program, breaking ranks with world powers in 2010 by attempting to find a separate settlement with Tehran.
And Erdogan's comments upon returning from Tehran suggested further distancing from U.S. and European positions, repeating the verdict of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that weapons of mass destruction violate Islamic law.
"After such a statement from such a person, I cannot claim that Iran is building a nuclear weapon," the Turkish leader said. "Does it not have the right to implement a nuclear program for peaceful means?"
Clinton said after a security conference in Saudi Arabia on Saturday that time is running out for diplomacy over Iran's nuclear program.
With speculation over a possible U.S. or Israel military attack adding urgency to the mid-April discussions, Clinton said Iran's "window of opportunity" for a peaceful resolution "will not remain open forever."
"We enter into these talks with a sober perspective about Iran's intentions. It is incumbent upon Iran to demonstrate by its actions that it is a willing partner and to participate in these negotiations with an effort to obtain concrete results," Clinton said on Saturday.
Her remarks followed President Barack Obama's announcement Friday that the U.S. was moving ahead with penalties aimed at depriving Iran of oil revenue, while also working with Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states to ensure ample global petroleum supplies.