U.S. to join direct talks on Iran over Iran's nuclear program

PanARMENIAN.Net - In a dramatic break from previous policy, the United States will join direct talks between UN and European powers and Iran over Tehran's nuclear program, the State Department announced Wednesday.

Wednesday's announcement is the latest step by the Obama administration to engage Iran diplomatically.

The Obama administration has asked the European Union's international policy chief, Javier Solana, to invite Iran to new talks with the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said.

"If Iran accepts, we hope this will be an occasion to seriously engage Iran of how to break the logjam of recent years and work in a cooperative manner to resolve the outstanding international concerns about its nuclear program," Wood said.

Prior to word from State, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's hard-line President, said that his country "welcomes a hand extended to it."

Iran so far has refused Security Council demands to halt its production of enriched uranium, which it has said will be used to fuel nuclear power plants. The United States has accused Tehran of concealing efforts to develop a nuclear bomb, and the UN's nuclear watchdog agency said it has failed to resolve questions about the aim of Iranian program.

The Bush administration had insisted that Iran first stop its nuclear program before any talks with the United States or its allies could go forward. Wednesday's announcement is the latest step in the Obama administration's efforts to engage the Islamic republic diplomatically after nearly three decades without formal ties.

Washington, which has not had diplomatic relations with Iran since 1980, has participated in previous talks only as an observer. Wood would not speculate about whether a meeting involving Iran and the rest of the group might lead to direct one-on-one meetings of U.S. and Iranian officials, CNN reports.
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