US will not lift conditions on negotiations with Iran: Rice

July 19th, 2008 - 4:53 am ICT by IANS  

DPA
Washington, July 19 (DPA) US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the US has not lifted conditions for negotiations with Iran by sending an envoy to a meeting in Geneva Saturday. The US broke with its past position of refusing to join discussions by sending Undersecretary of State William Burns to the talks, but Rice said that hasn’t changed US demands that Iran first halt uranium enrichment before negotiations begin.

“It should be very clear to everyone, the United States has a condition for the beginning of negotiations with Iran,” Rice told reporters, adding the decision reinforces the US desire to resolve the nuclear dispute with Iran diplomatically.

While Burns will attend the meeting he has been instructed to restate the US position and will not be negotiating with the Iranian delegation. Burns’ participation will mark the highest level diplomatic meeting between the two countries in 30 years, but the State Department maintains it is not a shift in policy.

But Rice said the United States remains open to better relations with Iran once the international community is satisfied Iran’s nuclear ambitions do not include developing a weapons capability.

“We have been very clear that any country can change course. The US doesn’t have any permanent enemies,” Rice said.

Iran is expected to respond to a package of diplomatic and economic incentives offered by five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany last month in exchange for an Iranian pledge to halt uranium enrichment.

Burns will attend the meeting to hear Iran’s response and will not hold one-on-one talks with Iran’s nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili.

Burns will be part of the delegation led by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, the lead negotiator with Iran and presented the package of incentives to Iran approved by Security Council powers Britain, China, France, Russia and the US.

The US severed diplomatic relations with Iran in 1980, following the 1979 storming of the US embassy in Tehran and subsequent 444-day hostage crisis.
DPA

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