Reuters: U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Wednesday that fallout from the European debt crisis along with fears of Iran and higher oil prices posed the biggest threats to the U.S. economy.
WASHINGTON, April 4 (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Wednesday that fallout from the European debt crisis along with fears of Iran and higher oil prices posed the biggest threats to the U.S. economy.
“Europe is still facing a very difficult, very challenging period. They are likely to have weak growth,” Geithner said in an interview with Fox Business TV.
“You have, obviously, the fear of Iran and oil prices, even though that is not hurting the economy today, people can still feel that in their pocketbook today,” he said.
Western diplomatic officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the Iran nuclear issue is so diplomatically fragile, said they assumed the location was still likely to be Istanbul. But one senior Western diplomat called the idea of Baghdad “ridiculous” and said the dispute about the location raised questions about whether Iran was serious about the talks.
Some outside Iranian experts also said the foreign minister’s comments did not augur well.
“The fact that the interested parties can’t even agree on a venue is an inauspicious sign about their ability to reach a nuclear agreement,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
There was no immediate comment from Turkey or the P5-plus-1 representative, Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who on Sunday announced that the talks would be held April 13 and 14 in Istanbul, made it clear that the timing was now in doubt, saying that she awaited a final decision by Ms. Ashton on the details. She reiterated that the United States had little patience for stalling tactics or “talks for the sake of talks.”
“There is still time and space to conclude the objectives that we seek through diplomacy,” she said at the State Department. “We want to see a peaceful resolution of the international community’s concerns, but the time for diplomacy is not infinite.”
Western diplomatic officials expressed deep doubts about holding the talks in Iraq, if only because of the security that would be required, as seen in the recent Arab League conference held in Baghdad.
Nonetheless, Iranian news agencies quoted Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq’s foreign minister, as saying that he would ask the P5-plus-1 countries about the idea.
Iran’s uranium enrichment is the core issue in the talks, which were suspended in January 2011. Iran says its enrichment is purely peaceful, to fuel reactors for energy and the production of medical isotopes. The West suspects it is a cover for a nuclear weapons program.
Under the pressure of onerous economic sanctions from the United States and the European Union over the nuclear issue, Iran recently agreed to resume the talks. They have taken on increased urgency because Israel has threatened to attack suspected nuclear sites if it concludes that Iran is imminently capable of achieving nuclear weapons.
Reporting was contributed by Steven Lee Myers from Washington, Steven Erlanger from Paris, Alan Cowell from London and Artin Afkhami from Boston.