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US urged to talk with Iran

Envoys welcome Obama offer, back diplomacy

By Judy Dempsey
International Herald Tribune / February 5, 2009
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BERLIN - Meeting in Germany yesterday, diplomats from the world's major powers welcomed an offer by President Obama to hold direct talks with Iran over its nuclear program and said they were committed to a diplomatic solution.

The meeting in Wiesbaden, attended by officials from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States, was the first opportunity for them to hear firsthand about Washington's intentions toward Iran - reversing the policy of the Bush administration, which had shunned all diplomatic contacts with the Islamic Republic.

The US delegation was led by William Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs. But Burns gave no concrete details about how the United States intended to proceed with Iran, according to officials acquainted with the talks.

Instead, the diplomats "agree to consult on next steps as the US administration undertakes its policy review," according to an official four-point summary. The summary said that the countries meeting - the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany - would proceed "on the basis of the dual-track strategy" of sanctions and diplomacy, as agreed to in several Security Council resolutions.

The European Union has for some time been prepared to offer Iran considerable economic and technical assistance if Iran abandoned its nuclear program, but has so far been unsuccessful.

This week, Iran announced that it had launched its first domestically made satellite, alarming governments on both sides of the Atlantic because of its technological sophistication.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had already urged her British and German counterparts this week to work together in dealing with Iran after meeting with them in Washington.

"The United States and Germany must work together to ensure that Iran fulfills its obligations to the international community," Clinton said Tuesday, referring to Iran's unwillingness to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog.

But Clinton stressed that just because Obama intended to adopt a new approach, there would still be consequences if Iran did not comply with Security Council resolutions.

"President Obama has signaled his intention to support tough and direct diplomacy with Iran, but if Tehran does not comply with United Nations Security Council and IAEA mandates, there must be consequences," Clinton told the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

She said the United States, Germany, and other EU countries "must coordinate closely to obtain the best possible outcomes."

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