ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) - The United States and other nations should take a diplomatic approach toward Iran in negotiations over that nation's nuclear program, former President Jimmy Carter said Thursday.
Iran's nuclear chief and representatives from the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, as well as Germany, are scheduled to start talks Thursday in Switzerland over a recently revealed nuclear facility in Iran.
Tehran says it is developing its nuclear program for energy purposes, but many nations believe Iran wants to make nuclear weapons and will be able to do so in the near future.
A deliberate approach will work best, Carter said.
"I hope and pray that Iran will be induced to permit international inspectors to come in and observe their entire nuclear program, because what they're doing so far is completely illegal under the nonproliferation treaty," the former president said in an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley.
"They have a right to purify uranium and plutonium to use for nuclear power. If Iran is on the borderline, the constant threats that we or the Israelis are going to attack Iran is the best thing to force them to say, 'Let's defend ourselves.' I don't think Iran has made up their mind what to do, and I think the best thing we can do is engage them and stop making these idle threats."
Iran said Tuesday it will allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect the new facility, but it did not offer a timetable for those visits.