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Big-Power Diplomats Discuss Iran Nuclear Issue


Senior diplomats of the five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany, the P5+1, conferred by telephone Monday on next steps in efforts get Iran to curb its nuclear program. It was the first six-party Iran discussion in nearly a month. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The State Department says the P5+1 political directors reaffirmed their commitment to the dual-track strategy of offering Iran incentives to stop enriching uranium and sanctions if it doesn't.

However, there was no claim of progress toward new U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran for its defiance of demands to curb nuclear activity that U.S. and European officials say is weapons-related.

State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood says Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns represented the United States in the conference call, the first joint conversation of the six powers on Iran since a ministerial-level meeting in New York late last month.

Wood said they discussed "the way forward" following a September 27 U.N. Security Council resolution pressing Iran for compliance on the nuclear issue and reaffirming terms of the three existing sanctions resolutions.

Wood said they agreed to remain in close touch on the issue, although there was no agreement on further political-director or ministerial meetings.

The spokesman rejected a press report depicting Monday's discussion as a failure, saying the meeting had no fixed agenda other than for the parties to talk. He said there is no recent sign of Iranian interest in accepting nuclear incentives.

"The P5+1has given Iran a generous package of incentives," said Robert Wood. "We encourage Iran every day to take up that package of incentives. We've offered them a pathway forward to better relations with the international community. The ball is in the Iranian court right now. Iran knows what it needs to do, and we all want to see that happen."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and their colleagues in the six-party group agreed on last month's resolution as a show of unity on Iran, despite tense relations between Washington and Moscow over Russia's recent military intervention in Georgia.

But the measure only reaffirmed existing sanctions because of Russian and Chinese opposition to additional penalties against Tehran.

Iran denies that it has nuclear weapons ambitions and says it has a right to enrich fuel for nuclear power plants.

Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani - the country's former chief nuclear envoy - said last week that Tehran wants to continue negotiations over its nuclear program but that it will not accept an end to uranium enrichment as a precondition for talks.

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