U.S. drops conditions on Iran talks
The Obama administration accelerated a diplomatic blitz with Iran on Wednesday, saying that it will drop previous conditions and become a "full participant" in European Union-led nuclear negotiations.
The talks, headed by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, have been going on for more than four years. The Bush administration refused to take part unless Iran stopped enriching uranium, which Tehran says is for civilian purposes but can be also used to build a nuclear weapon.
The decision was announced as top diplomats from six nations dealing with the issue met in London. The group is known as the "P5+1" and includes the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - the U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China - as well as Germany.
"What is different is that the U.S. will join P5+1 discussions with Iran from now on," State Department spokesman Robert A. Wood told reporters. "If Iran accepts, we hope this will be the occasion to seriously engage Iran on how to break the logjam of recent years and work in a cooperative manner to resolve the outstanding international concerns about its nuclear program."
The group in 2006 offered Tehran political and economic incentives for ending uranium enrichment, but Iran refused. That has led to three rounds of U.N. sanctions.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday that William J. Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, "is now participating in the P5+1 as a full participant, not just as an observer."
"Pursuing very careful engagement on a range of issues that affect our interests and the interests of the world with Iran makes sense, and there's nothing more important than trying to convince Iran to cease its efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon," Mrs. Clinton said.
State Department officials said the administration still wants Iran to suspend uranium enrichment but will no longer make that a precondition.