U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that Iran must address concerns about its nuclear program "head on" when it meets diplomats from six world powers early next month. Senior diplomats from the five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany, the P5+1, are to meet Iranian nuclear negotiator Saaed Jalili at a still to be announced venue on October 1.
Clinton is serving notice on Iran that despite its assertions that the nuclear issue is closed, it will have to deal with the matter "head on," and that Washington is not willing to take part in talks with Tehran that go nowhere.
The Secretary's comments were her first public remarks on the issue since Iran agreed on Monday to accept a five-month-old proposal from the P5+1 to meet senior diplomats of the Big Power grouping.
Clinton said Iranian statements notwithstanding, the United States and its partners will raise the nuclear issue at the October 1 meeting, which is expected to be held at a venue in Europe or Turkey.
At a press event with Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez, Clinton said the Big Powers should be able to judge quickly whether Iran is prepared to deal with concerns of the United States and others that Tehran's uranium enrichment is weapons-related or whether punitive actions such as additional U.N. sanctions will be required.
"We have no illusions about the Iranian government. But the point is to meet and explain to the Iranians, face-to-face, the choices that Iran has. And to see whether is prepared to engage with us around its nuclear program. TheP5+1 is the forum for addressing the Iranian nuclear program, and we have adopted a two-track approach. We are, on the one hand, working to see if anything positive can come from this meeting on October 1. But we are also working with the international community on consequences that would flow if Iran fails to fulfill their international obligations on their nuclear program," she said.
Clinton said the Obama administration, while endorsing dialogue with Iran, is not interested in "talking for the sake of talking" or engaging in a process "that has no purpose or end-point".
In April, the major powers renewed an offer of incentives to Iran to end its enrichment drive and return to negotiations over its nuclear program, which Iran insists is peaceful.
The U.N. Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions against Iran over its refusal to freeze its uranium enrichment activities. U.S. officials have raised the prospect of tougher measures if Tehran does not change course.
Russia, which could veto a new sanctions resolution, has resisted further penalties, although Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said Tuesday that additional sanctions might be needed.