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Iran Cautious On U.S. Talks Offer

May 31, 2006 -- U.S. President George W. Bush said today the United States is willing to play a leading role in helping to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program through diplomacy.

He made the statement shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice offered to join multi-party talks with Iran, saying the United States will meet with Iran and other negotiators only if Iran suspends all uranium enrichment activities.

"To underscore our commitment to a diplomatic solution, and to enhance the prospects for success, as soon as Iran fully and verifiably suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities, the United States will come to the table with our EU colleagues and meet with Iran's representatives," Rice said.

Rice said the United States acknowledges Iran's right to a civilian nuclear program. But she said Iran must have the full confidence of the international community that it has given up the pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Tehran has denied it intends to produce nuclear weapons.

Iran Wants No Preconditions

The European Union and individual European countries welcomed the call for multilateral talks.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he hopes talks in Vienna tomorrow will lead to a political solution to the standoff.

An Iranian lawmaker is quoted as saying that the U.S. offer for direct talks with Tehran over its nuclear program must be conducted without preconditions.

The Iran's Student News Agency reported tonight that Kazem Jalali, spokesman for the Iranian Parliament's Foreign Policy and National Security Committee, said the U.S. move might be viewed positively if preconditions were dropped.

The official government news agency IRNA, meanwhile, quoted Jalai as saying that Tehran remained interested in talks with Russia. Moscow has offered to enrich uranium for Tehran on Russian soil to overcome international concerns that Iran wants to build a nuclear weapon.

(compiled from agency reports)

Copyright (c) 2006. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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