The United States is repeating its position that the best way to resolve the stand-off with Iran over its nuclear program is through the United Nations. A top U.S. official made his comments in response to questions about whether Washington would negotiate with Tehran directly.
White House National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley says the United States has been supportive of European efforts to negotiate with Iran. He told CNN's Late Edition, Washington's position has not changed.
"The Europeans made a proposal to Iran, a year and a half ago, and we indicated clearly we were going to facilitate that proposal," said Stephen Hadley. "So, the forum has now shifted to a discussion in the U.N. Security Council, where the international community, as a whole, of which the United States is a part, can make clear to Iran what it needs to do."
He called for Iran to drop its uranium-enrichment program and give assurances to the international community that it is not pursuing a nuclear weapon.
The Europeans and the United States suspect Tehran is using its nuclear program as a cover for developing an atomic bomb. Iran insists its nuclear intentions are peaceful.
The American official's comments follow calls, by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and others, for Washington and Tehran to hold direct talks.
Critics of the Bush administration's policy on Iran include former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. He describes the lack of direct negotiations as, in his words, "an absurd situation." He compares Iran to North Korea, pointing out U.S. officials have met with North Korean officials, both multi-laterally and bi-laterally.
"The argument that the [Bush] administration makes is we cannot negotiate with Iran because it will legitimate them," said Zbigniew Brzezinski. "Well, we are legitimating North Korea, so what is the big deal? The fact is, there are serious differences between the United States and Iran, conflicts over security issues, over financial problems, claims and counter-claims."
British, French, and German negotiators are expected to offer Tehran incentives in exchange for a guarantee that Iran will suspend uranium enrichment. In Tehran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says his country will reject any European offer that requires an end to Iran's nuclear activities.
Meanwhile, the tensions are causing others in the region to speak out, including Jordan's Foreign Minister, Abdelelah al-Khatib. He pointed out that the Middle East, in his words, "does not need another crisis."
"Iran is a part of the region, an important part of the region, and as I say, we prefer to see a diplomatic solution negotiated between the parties," said Abdelelah al-Khatib.
Diplomats meet in Europe this week to discuss the latest incentive package, which will also outline penalties in case of Iran's non-compliance.
If Tehran rejects the latest offer, the United States and the Europeans say they will press for a U.N. Security Council resolution that threatens possible sanctions. Permanent Security Council members Russia and China have threatened to veto any sanctions resolution.