US to Send Senior Diplomat to Talks with Iran
VOA, State Department,
The State Department announced on Monday that it
will send its third-ranking diplomat, Under Secretary of State for Political
Affairs William Burns, to an October 1 Big Power meeting with Iran over its
nuclear program. U.S. officials say the five permanent U.N. Security Council
member countries and Germany will present a "united front" against Iran's
alleged nuclear weapons ambitions.
|U.S. Undersecretary of State William
Burns, 11 Jun 2009
The October meeting, at a still-to-be announced venue in Europe, will be a rare
opportunity for face-to-face U.S. diplomatic contact with Iran. Officials here
say the under secretary will deliver a message from the Obama administration
that "the clock is running down" for Iran to be responsive to concerns about its
The European Union's chief diplomat, Javier Solana, arranged the meeting with
Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, after Tehran said last week it had
accepted an offer for talks with the five permanent U.N. Security Council member
countries and Germany - the P5+1.
Last April, the Big Power grouping renewed an offer of economic and political
incentives for Iran to end a uranium enrichment program that U.S. and European
officials believe is weapons-related and return to negotiations over its nuclear
While accepting the proposal for talks, Tehran insists that it will not
entertain the idea of stopping the enrichment drive, which it contends is part
of a civilian power program and to which it is entitled under the Nuclear
State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly said that despite Iran's comments, the six
powers will have the nuclear issue at the top of their agenda and present a
"united front" against any plans by Iran for the militarization of its nuclear
program. He said that U.S. patience on the issue is limited.
"We have not had the opportunity to get an official response from the Iranians
on our offer that we made back in April," said Ian Kelly. "So this is why I say
we want to take this opportunity to hear from them face-to-face, directly across
the table what their choice is, in terms of which path they're going to pursue."
Kelly said the choice for Iran is further isolation, if it refuses to be
responsive to concerns about its nuclear intentions, or cooperation and
integration with the world community.
The Obama administration has threatened new sanctions against Iran if it does
not alter its nuclear course. But Russia, a veto-wielding member of the U.N.
Security Council, last week all but ruled out additional punitive measures in
the United Nations framework.
The State Department said last week that it wanted the Big Power meeting with
Iran to occur before world leaders convene in New York next week for the new
U.N. General Assembly. But a senior official here insisted on Monday that
delaying the meeting until October 1 was not a setback.
Under Secretary Burns will take part in the October 1st meeting in line with an
Obama administration decision early this year to join in P5+1 meetings with
Iran, despite a 30-year absence of diplomatic relations.
The U.S. diplomat, a holdover in the post from the Bush administration, also
took part in a P5+1 meeting with Iran in July of last year, but it was described
then as a "one time only" gesture.
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