HOME About Blog Contact Hotel Links Donations Registration
NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Rice hints at talks with Iran

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday held out the possibility that the United States might join talks with Iran if it temporarily suspends its nuclear program.

Rice chose not to flatly reject talk of a two-month freeze by Tehran, suggesting Washington is looking for a way to begin negotiations as long as Iran meets its bedrock condition by suspending the program first.

"The point is there would have to be a suspension. If there is a suspension, we can have discussions but there has to be a suspension," Rice told reporters as she flew to Canada.

"As far as I know, the Iranians have not yet said that they would suspend prior to negotiations, which is what the issue has been," she added.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani said they made progress in weekend talks to explore a basis for formal negotiations to end a stalemate over Tehran's pursuit of technology that could yield atom bombs. They may meet again on Thursday.

An EU diplomat said Larijani offered a two-month enrichment freeze during seven hours of discussions with Solana in Vienna that both sides described as constructive.

Asked about the two-month freeze offer, Rice appeared to leave open the door to talks.

"Suspension, verified suspension, that's the condition," she said. "As to time limitations ... I haven't heard any Iranian offer so I don't know what to make of that but the question is: are they prepared to suspend, verifiably, so that negotiations can begin? That's the issue," she said.

Previously, the United States has said Iran must suspend nuclear enrichment and reprocessing throughout any negotiations. U.S. officials still insist they will seek U.N. sanctions against Iran if it does not.

"I am quite certain that you are going to see, if this does not work out, that you are going to see sanctions and that those will be commensurate with Iranian behavior," Rice said, saying could be applied in a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions or by like-minded nations acting outside the U.N.


A European diplomat said he did not see Rice's comments as softening the U.S. position. If Iran suspends and negotiations begin but Iran resumes enrichment, the West "will again pick up the discussion of sanctions in the Security Council," he said.

The text of Iran's formal August 22 reply to a June 6 incentives offer from the five permanent Security Council members -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China -- and Germany made public on Monday hinted at Iranian flexibility but was not conclusive.

Tehran described the proposal as "containing useful foundations and capacities for comprehensive and long-term cooperation" between Iran and the major powers and raised the possibility of discussing enrichment suspension during talks.

But the document holds out little prospect Iran would agree to a permanent freeze and sets out other "near-impenetrable" conditions, said David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector who published the document on his Web site.

Earlier Monday, Gregory Schulte, U.S. envoy to the IAEA, said Washington was pleased with the Solana-Larijani meetings, but still felt a need to deter Iran from stringing out any talks while perfecting enrichment technology on the ground.

The major powers made enrichment suspension a condition of beginning negotiations on their incentives package.

EU diplomats say Russia, China, France and possibly Germany would compromise and accept a freeze that began once talks were under way.

The West believes Iran is secretly trying to build nuclear bombs and has condemned its defiance of an August 31 Security Council deadline. Iran says it only wants to produce low-grade enriched fuel for power plants.

The 35-nation governing board of the U.N. nuclear watchdog met Monday to debate a report by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei saying Iran was pressing ahead with enrichment in defiance of the U.N. Security Council.

Solana and Larijani said they hoped to hold another round of talks, possibly Thursday.
Web IntelligenceSummit.org
Webmasters: Intelligence, Homeland Security & Counter-Terrorism WebRing
Copyright © IHEC 2008. All rights reserved.       E-mail info@IntelligenceSummit.org