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US Expectations Low for Solana-Larijani Meeting

The State Department said Wednesday there has been no softening of the U.S. position on Iran's nuclear program, and that its expectations for an Ankara meeting between Iranian and European Union envoys are low. EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana is meeting Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani in the Turkish capital. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Officials here say they would like to see Iran accept international terms for negotiations over its nuclear program, but that given Iranian statements in advance of the Solana-Larijani meeting, their expectations are low.

The EU's chief diplomat prepared to meet the Iranian negotiator amid news reports that the five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany, the so-called P5-plus-1, were prepared to ease their terms for restarting nuclear negotiations with Iran.

The major powers have long insisted that Iran suspend uranium enrichment activity before there can be new negotiations and an end to U.N. sanctions against Tehran.

But reports quoting western diplomats this week suggested that the P5-plus-1 might be open to a face-saving compromise allowing Iran to retain part of its enrichment capability.

However, a spokeswoman for Solana said there had been no change in the position of the international community. In a talk with reporters here, Deputy State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey said reports of a change were "rubbish."

"There is no change in our position or the position of the P5-plus-1," he said. "Suspension means suspension, and that's the terms and conditions under which the international community, specifically the P5-plus-1, is prepared to engage in negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program."

Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States last June offered Iran a variety of economic and security incentives if it agreed to halt enrichment.

But Iran has pressed ahead with its enrichment program despite two subsequent U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions.

Though Iran insists its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, the United States and key allies believe it is concealing a drive for nuclear weapons.

Larijani said before the Ankara meeting that "irrational" western preconditions had thwarted diplomacy on the nuclear issue, but that he expected to hear new ideas from Solana.

Spokesman Casey reiterated here that if Iran met what he termed the "very minimal" conditions set by the world community and halted enrichment, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is prepared to join in talks with Iran that would cover any issue Tehran wanted to raise.

Casey also left open the possibility Rice might interact with her Iranian counterpart at a conference on Iraq next week in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

However, Iran has sent mixed signals about whether it will attend the ministerial-level gathering of neighbor countries of Iraq and world powers, though it did take part in a preparatory meeting last month in Baghdad.