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Rice, British Foreign Secretary Say Iranian Letter Being Studied

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Wednesday an Iranian overture for wide-ranging political talks is being studied by the two allies. But they said the way for Iran to escape international isolation is to stop its uranium enrichment program. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Rice and her British counterpart are making clear that the Iranian overture, contained in a letter this week to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, is not being dismissed out of hand.

However, the two allies say the way for Tehran to have productive relations with the major powers is to accept their renewed offer of incentives to suspend enrichment and return to negotiations on the future of its nuclear program.

Iran made the proposal as the five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany prepare to offer Tehran a revised incentives package - understood to include access to new commercial aircraft and talks on problem issues that would include the United States despite the absence of formal relations.

At a joint press appearance with Secretary Rice, Miliband said the P5+1 is now in advanced discussions with the Iranians on the delivery of the incentives package. He said the Iranian letter is being examined very carefully, and that Tehran needs to address the new big-power offer with the same care.

"We do believe that it's very important that the government and people of Iran understand the depth of feeling on this issue, right across the international community, the dangers that we see. But also the potential benefits for the Iranian people of engaging in a serious way with the offer that is going to be made to them on the basis of the package that has been put together," he said.

Rice for her part said she would not discuss the Iranian letter publicly without consulting with Miliband and others, but said that Iran in any case knows what it must do to get back in the good graces of the international community.

Under questioning she said she had no intention of becoming involved in U.S. campaign politics by responding to an assertion by Democratic presidential contender Barak Obama that Bush administration Iran policy has been a failure.

Rice none-the-less said U.S. efforts have helped produce what she termed a successful multilateral coalition offering Iran a two-track strategy of benefits if it cooperates, and penalties and isolation if it doesn't. She implicitly challenged Mr. Obama to come up with a better approach.

"I would like to see what other options there are for the international community, given that this policy is one that I think is the best course for us. Give Iran a choice. If Iran cannot make the right choice, then it will face consequences," she said.

Rice said she and Miliband also discussed Lebanon and welcomed the Arab-League brokered accord in Doha to end the Lebanese political crisis.

She said they strongly support the legitimate government of Lebanon and the need for it to have full control over all the country's territory and the armaments within it.

Milband said they also discussed the aftermath of the cyclone in Burma, which he described as a natural disaster that has been turned into a man-made catastrophe, a reference to the military government's handing of the crisis.