Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Iran has an opportunity to break out of its isolation over its nuclear program and become what she described as a "productive member" of the world community. She spoke on the eve of a meeting in Germany at which world powers will review diplomatic efforts to get Iran to stop enriching uranium.
The Obama administration has expressed a readiness to drop preconditions for dialogue with Iran, and Secretary Clinton is depicting the current White House policy review as a chance for Tehran to break out of its self-imposed international isolation.
The secretary of state spoke to reporters with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband as senior diplomats from the five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany, the P5+1, prepared to convene Wednesday in Wiesbaden, Germany for their first meeting on the Iran nuclear issue since the new U.S. administration took office.
Clinton alluded to interview remarks by President Obama last week that he would pursue diplomacy with Iran if that government "unclenched its fist."
"Iran has an opportunity to step up and become a productive member of the international community. As President Obama said, we are reaching out a hand, but the fist has to unclench. And we will see how we proceed together toward a policy that we believe represents objectives that we share vis-à-vis Iran," she said.
Miliband, the first senior foreign official to meet Clinton at the State Department in her new capacity had similar comments. Though Iran has ignored three U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions to press on with its enrichment drive, the British Foreign Secretary said it is not too late for Tehran to chart a different course.
"We have talked also about the importance of the Iranian nuclear issue and your commitment to engage with other countries in making clear to Iran the costs of its conduct. But also making clear to Iran that if it is willing to accept its responsibilities in the international community, it will be a welcome member of the international community, exercising its rights as well as its responsibilities I think is a very important message," he said.
Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns will represent the United States at the policy meeting in Germany.
Within the P5+1, Russia, and China have resisted pressure from the United States, Britain, France and Germany for tighter sanctions against Iran, but they did support a new Security Council resolution in October reaffirming international demands that Iran stop its enrichment drive.
Iran has maintained a defiant stand in advance of the Weisbaden meeting. Its parliament speaker and former nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said Monday those who expect Iran to give up nuclear technology are "talking nonsense."
And Iran claimed the launch of its first space satellite, action that drew an expression of concern from Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.
"It is certainly a reason for us to be concerned about Iran and its continued attempts to develop a ballistic-missile program, increasingly long-range. Although this would appear just to be the launch of a satellite, their first, obviously there are dual-use capabilities in the technology here which could be applied toward the development of a long-range ballistic missile. And that is a cause of concern to us and I think to certainly everybody in the region, Israel and their Arab neighbors as well as to our allies in Europe," the spokesman said.
The State Department said Iran's missile efforts are of deep concern and noted that U.N. member states are obligated under a 2006 Security Council resolution to prevent sales to Iran of technology or hardware that could advance its nuclear and missile programs.