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P5+1 political directors to meet in Europe this week on Iran

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Under Sec. of State Wendy Sherman testified on Iran policy to Senate foreign relations panel Dec. 1, 2011. (Susan …

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman will meet with her counterparts from the P5+1 group in Brussels early this week to prepare for upcoming negotiations with Iran, American and European diplomats tell Yahoo News.

Sherman will join Helga Schmid, the deputy to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, and British, French, German, Chinese and Russian political directors, the officials said, asking to speak anonymously because the meeting has not yet been announced.

Schmid may hold parallel talks--likely by phone--with Ali Bagheri, deputy to lead Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, on setting up a venue and timing for a meeting.

European Union foreign ministers are due to meet in Brussels on Friday.

Preparations for the high stakes talks are unusually sensitive, given the prevailing sense in Foggy Bottom that if they are a failure, there may very well not be another chance to resume negotiations and avert the pressures for conflict, an American official described. There's a feeling these are the last chance, he said, adding that some senior officials in the building are not optimistic, given frustrating past negotiating encounters with Iran.

Iran has sent somewhat positive signals in advance of the talks.

"We are not seeking nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic of Iran considers possession of nuclear weapons a sin ... and believes that holding such weapons is useless, harmful and dangerous," Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last month at a meeting with Iranian nuclear scientists and officials, the Associated Press reported.

Update: A State Department official confirmed to Yahoo News Tuesday that Sherman is in Brussels Tuesday for talks with other P5+1 political directors.

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