Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she hopes Saturday's critical
meeting with Iran's nuclear negotiator in Geneva will mark a change of
course for Tehran in its nuclear dispute with the international
community. Rice is sending a senior envoy to take part in the talks.
VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
dispatch of Undersecretary of State William Burns to the Geneva
meeting is a policy shift for the Bush administration, which had
shunned direct contacts with Tehran on the nuclear issue in the absence
of an Iranian commitment to stop uranium enrichment.
At a State
Department news conference with Kosovo political leaders, Rice said she
hopes the U.S. gesture will encourage Iran to accept international
incentives and halt its pursuit of technology that could lead to a
"We have been very clear that any country can
change course," Rice said. "The United States doesn't have any
permanent enemies, and we hope that the signal that we're sending that
we fully support the track that Iran could take for a better
relationship with the international community is one that the United
States stands fully behind. We will see what happens on Saturday but
that is the message that Bill Burns will be delivering."
the third-ranking State department official, will join European Union
chief diplomat Javier Solana and diplomats from the other permanent
U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany, the
P-Five-Plus-One, in the meeting with Iranian envoy Saeed Jalili.
is expected to give its reply to an enhanced package of incentives
offered by the P-Five-Plus-One in June to try to persuade Tehran to
stop its enrichment drive and return to negotiations over its nuclear
A suspension of enrichment would mean a suspension of
U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran. Solana has also proposed
a six-week period of so-called "pre-negotiations" in which there would
be no new sanctions added if Iran stopped adding to its enrichment
In her comments here, Rice said the decision to have
Burns join the Geneva meeting is a "strong signal" to the world that
the Bush administration is serious about nuclear diplomacy with Iran,
but that it has not softened its fundamental demand that Tehran must
stop enrichment to end its political isolation:
"I would remind
you that I signed the letter that sent the proposal forward to the
Iranian regime," she noted. "And this is, in a sense, the bookend --
Bill Burns will go to receive the Iranian response. But it should be
very clear to everyone: the United States has a condition for the
beginning of negotiations with Iran. And that condition remains the
verifiable suspension of Iran's enrichment and processing activities."
officials have declined to speculate what Iran's reply may be. But they
say the range of comments by Tehran officials in recent weeks suggests,
at least, an internal debate about whether to continue uranium
enrichment - which the Tehran government has said is part of a peaceful