U.S. offers direct talks on nuclear issue; Iran dismisses as 'propaganda'

Thursday, June 1, 2006

In a major foreign policy shift, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday announced that it would join European nations in multilateral talks with Iran over its nuclear energy issue if Iran fully and verifiably suspends its nuclear enrichment activities.

"We urge Iran to make this choice for peace, to abandon its ambition for nuclear weapons," she said. At the same time, Rice acknowledged that Iran had a right for civil nuclear energy.

However, the official Iranian news agency, IRNA, said in a dispatch following Rice's remarks, "Given the insistence by Iranian authorities on continuing uranium enrichment, Rice’s comments can be considered a propaganda move." Iranian lawmaker Kazem Jalali, speaking unofficially, said that the U.S. offer "can be considered positive but the precondition set by the U.S. is not appropriate."

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana welcomed Rice's remarks. "Direct U.S. participation would be the strongest and most positive signal of our common wish to reach an agreement with Iran," Solana said.

Iran and the United States have had no diplomatic relations and no direct official contact since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in which 52 Americans were held hostage in the American Embassy in Tehran.