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Senators Explore Engagement with Iran


The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is exploring the pros and cons of talks with Iran, proposed by six major world powers including the United States. The talks would discuss Tehran's nuclear program. US Senator John Kerry says the U.S. is not interested in promoting regime change and instead is focusing on engagement.

Iran has a uranium conversion facility. Iran says its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful purposes. The US and other countries suspect Tehran is developing nuclear weapons.

Former U.S. attorney Robert Morgenthau, issued this warning to the the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "It is late in this game, and we don't have a lot of time to stop Iran from developing long range missiles and nuclear weapons," he warned.

Unlike his predecessor, President Obama says he wants a new beginning with Iran and has proposed talks

Committee Chairman John Kerry echoed that position. "Our preference is engagement, our preference is not to have confrontation of any kind," he said.

But if engagement is unsuccessful, former Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns suggested more sanctions and a military option. "Our partners in this, particularly the Russians and Chinese, who are very influential, ought to be with us agreeing before hand, that if the talks fail, they will join with us in in very, very tough sanctions," Burns stated. "And it does make sense to keep the threat of force on the table."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said he is not ready for talks with U.S. officials without preconditions.

Burns says the U.S. must be patient. "We've had a 30 year deep freeze in our relationship. We've had no serious or meaningful discussions from the Carter administration to the Obama administration with a series of Iranian governments. There's no real understanding of one another," Burns add. "And we see each other as adversaries. So this is a situation fraught with a lot of danger for both countries. I do see the Iranians as a real threat to our country. There's no question they are seeking a nuclear weapons capability."

Although Senator Kerry says the United States will not push for regime change, experts say it could happen in next month's elections.

"What do you think is going to happen in June?" Senator Ted Kaufman questioned.

"Ahmadinejad is not as popular as he would want to be. His economic policies have been a failure at home. And average people are having a tough time in Iran. Whether we see that expressed in the voting booths in Iran is an open question," Burns said.

The Senate committee will release a report on Iran's nuclear program later this week.

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