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Iran: Will talks happen under Obama?

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Still, what seems more likely than a quick invitation to direct talks with Tehran is a period of reestablishing relations with partners also influential with Iran. The new administration could also explore means of multiplying contacts with lower-tier Iranian officials.

"Barack Obama made it clear he was prepared to engage Iran directly, but he also said we have to prepare," said Dennis Ross, Mr. Obama's top Middle East adviser, speaking Tuesday at a meeting of the Anti-Defamation League in Denver.

What that is likely to mean, Iran and nonproliferation experts say, is that while dialogue and diplomacy are a foregone conclusion, the priority in the new administration will be on getting any Iran initiative right.

"The question now changes from the what to the how – things like sequence and timing," says Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, a Washington-based advocate of curtailing the spread of nuclear weapons.

Concerning timing, he says his recommendation to Obama is "wait – do not rush into this."

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