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Rice Dismisses Iranian Overture for New Talks

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is dismissing an Iranian overture for renewed talks with Europe without substantive action by Tehran to ease world concerns about its nuclear intentions. She discussed the issue with European Union chief diplomat Javier Solana.

The Bush administration and key European officials are brushing aside Iran's latest offer to resume nuclear talks in the absence of action by the Iranians to reverse recent moves to resume uranium enrichment.

The deputy head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Javad Vaeedi offered to resume talks in a letter Tuesday to the foreign ministers of Britain, France, and Germany.

He said Iran would spare no effort to remove any ambiguity about its nuclear program through negotiation, but gave no indication it would again abide by the nuclear freeze agreement it reached with the EU-three more than a year ago.

In a brief talk with reporters as she began a meeting focusing on Iran with EU chief diplomat Javier Solana, Secretary Rice said she agrees with European officials that the mere resumption of talks at this point is not enough.

"I think it is up to the Iranians to demonstrate that they are not just talking, but they are serious,"she said. "I think the EU, France, have already responded concerning whether or not they think it would make any sense to have discussions with the Iranians at this point. And my understanding is they believe it would not, because it is the Iranians who walked away from the negotiations, who broke the moratorium. As that condition exists, I am sensing from the Europeans that there is not much to talk about."

Mr. Solana for his part said the Europeans are not prepared to return to talks with Iran just for the sake of talking, and are joining the United States in seeking an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors to refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council.

"We received a letter from the national security adviser of Iran telling us to continue having another meeting that we fixed a time ago," he said. "We are replying that there is not much sense to have another meeting if there is nothing new in what they are going to put on the table. So I think our position now is what we have said, as the Secretary has said again, which is to have to have a meeting in Vienna of the agency [IAEA] and then to refer the issue to the Security Council."

Solana said he hoped that common sense would again prevail among Iranian authorities and that they would return to negotiations and not break agreements they made with the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Secretary Rice said it is important for the IAEA board to take action in order to serve notice on Iran that it cannot continue acting with impunity against the interests of the international community.

She said Iran must not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon or be allowed to pursue activities that might lead to such a capability.

Iran insists its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, while the United States has long maintained that it has a covert weapons component.