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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

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US Reports Some Progress in Talks on Iran



24 May 2006

The State Department says senior diplomats of the permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany have made progress on a strategy for dealing with Iran's nuclear program. But U.S. officials say a package approach has not been completed and more talks will be needed.

Senior diplomats of the six countries met for several hours Wednesday at an undisclosed location in London on a strategy aimed at resolving the crisis over Iran's nuclear program.

There was no announcement of results from the British capital. But officials here are reporting progress, while also saying some issues require decisions in the various capitals and that the so-called P-5 Plus One group will hold additional meetings in the coming days.

The major powers hope to be able to soon present Iran with a package of incentives to get it to end uranium enrichment and return to negotiations on its nuclear program.

If it rejects the package, they are seeking agreement on punitive measures that would start with a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding Iranian compliance and leading to possible sanctions.

The political directors of the P-Five Plus One met amid renewed press reports of interest by Iran in a direct nuclear dialogue with the United States.

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack acknowledged that Iran has recently passed word of its interest in such talks through diplomatic channels.

But he said the United States will hold to its current multi-lateral approach, led by major European allies, aimed at getting Iran to abandon what U.S. officials believe is a covert nuclear weapons program:

"There are many who want to make this a U.S.-Iran issue," he said. "It is not a U.S.-Iran issue. It is the concerns of the international community, an increasingly united international community, and Iran. So what Iran needs to do is come back, change their behavior, consider the pressure that they're under. And I think that you see a lot of these news reports being generated as a result of the fact that Iran now finds itself under considerable international pressure."

McCormack gave no indication what issues remain unresolved in the P-5 Plus One talks. But Russia and China have opposed calls by the United States and its European allies for a binding U.N. resolution that would threaten sanctions against Iran and be enforceable by possible military action.

On another issue, McCormack said there are no plans for an official U.S. response to the letter to President Bush earlier this month by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The letter was the first of its kind by an Iranian leader in more than two decades, and the Washington Post reports some experts within the U.S. government were recommending a reply.

Spokesman McCormack said the 17-page letter contained various policy harangues by the Iranian leader, but no specific overture or proposal for the United States to respond to.



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