LONDON -- Breaking a deadlock over the location and timing of new talks on its disputed nuclear program, Iran said Tuesday that it had reached agreement with world powers to resume the stuttering dialogue later this month in Kazakhstan.
The agreement to meet there Feb. 26 came in a phone conversation between senior officials of Iran's National Security Council and the European Union, representing the outside powers involved in the talks, Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency said.
The news agency report followed remarks by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, who said Sunday that his country was open to a renewed offer of direct talks with the United States on its nuclear program, and that it looked favorably on a proposal for a new round of multilateral nuclear negotiations in late February in Kazakhstan.
IRNA did not allude to the prospect of direct talks with the United States. Vice President Joe Biden offered such discussions last weekend in what Mr. Salehi described as "a step forward." But it was unclear whether the U.S. representative in the multilateral negotiations, Wendy R. Sherman, the State Department's undersecretary for political affairs, would have a one-on-one meeting in Kazakhstan with Saeed Jalili, the Iranian chief negotiator.
Iran's negotiation team last met with the outside powers -- the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany -- for high-level talks in Moscow in June. The powers are represented by the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, who had suggested resumed talks Feb. 25-26 in Kazakhstan.
At the last encounter, Iran demanded the lifting of ever-tightening international economic sanctions as a precondition for discussions about reducing or eliminating its growing inventory of enriched uranium. But the outside powers want Iran to suspend its enrichment program and satisfy the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, that it does not have a nuclear weapons program. Iran denies Western accusations that its nuclear program is designed to provide access to the technology for nuclear weapons.
The Moscow talks ended in such mistrust and frustration that negotiators did not commit to another high-level encounter.
Last week, Iran told the IAEA at its Vienna headquarters that it plans to install more sophisticated centrifuges at its principal nuclear enrichment plant at Natanz, enabling it to greatly accelerate processing of uranium. Outside nuclear negotiations experts have suggested that Iran purposely timed that announcement to increase its diplomatic leverage at the upcoming talks.
There is little expectation that the talks will produce a solution to resolve the dispute, which has dragged on for years. Analysts who have followed the talks said they expect Iran to seek further delays for the Iranian new year celebrations that begin March 20, and later for the Iranian presidential elections in June and the inauguration of a new president in August.
"There is no sign that the sides' positions have changed significantly since talks broke off in June 2012," Cliff Kupchan, director of the Middle East at the Eurasia Group, a Washington-based consultancy, said in a note to clients Tuesday. He said resumption of the diplomacy "is unlikely to yield any results soon."