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Iran Nuclear Talks Wrap Up In Geneva

July 19, 2008

Iran has given no clear answer on an incentives proposal for suspending its nuclear program at talks in Geneva with six powers trying to negotiate a resolution of the long-running dispute, EU foreign-policy chief Javier Solana told a news conference after those discussions adjourned.

"We have not got a clear answer.... [W]e didn't get an answer 'yes' or 'no' and we hope that it will be given soon," he said, according to Reuters.

Solana said that he and Iranian negotiator Said Jalili had agreed to meet or speak by telephone again within two weeks.

Asked by Reuters after the meeting whether Tehran would consider the demand to freeze enrichment as a precondition for full negotiations, Jalili said, "We will only discuss common points of the package."

U.S. Under Secretary of State William Burns joined envoys from the European Union and permanent members of the UN Security Council for the talks with Iranian negotiators.

Burns is the first senior U.S. official to take part in international talks with Iran over its controversial nuclear program. His attendance at the all-day discussions in Geneva has been regarded as a shift in U.S. policy toward Iran, with whom the United States severed diplomatic relations after that country's Islamic revolution in 1979.

Burns, the third-highest ranking U.S. diplomat, was not expected to hold separate talks with Jalili.

U.S. officials say Burns' presence would be a "one-time event" and that he was in Geneva not to negotiate but "only to listen."

Optimism was tempered by the U.S. insistence that, despite Burns' presence, real negotiations could not begin until Iran had frozen sensitive nuclear work, a step Tehran has repeatedly rejected.

"Any kind of suspension or freeze is out of the question," an Iranian official told Reuters before the talks, rejecting the main condition set by the United States and other major powers for formal negotiations.

Iran's ambassador to Switzerland said at the start of the talks that Iran would not accept a freeze in uranium enrichment. "It is not in Iran's agenda to discuss this issue," Keyvan Imani told reporters. "As our supreme leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] clearly said, our path is very clear: We are not going to abandon our rights."

U.S. officials have accused Iran of secretly pursuing nuclear weapons, although a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate late last year concluded that Tehran had likely suspended alleged military nuclear activities.

Iranian officials have consistently denied that they are seeking a nuclear bomb.

On July 18, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the decision to send Burns to the Geneva meeting signaled that the United States was serious about a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff.

"This decision to send Under Secretary Burns is an affirmation of the policy that we have been pursuing with our European allies, with the P-5+1, for some time now," Rice said. "It is, in fact, a strong signal to the entire world that we have been very serious about this diplomacy and we will remain very serious about this diplomacy."

Rice said "any country can change course," and that the United States does not have "permanent enemies."

Ahead of the meeting, Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki described the talks as "positive and constructive."

"Today the talks will be held between the sides. Today's meeting might continue with several others so that the points of view of all sides can be put on the table, so that we reach an agreement," Mottaki said. "So according to the preparations for today's meeting, we evaluate the negotiations in Geneva as positive and constructive."

EU foreign-policy chief Javier Solana and envoys from China, Russia, France, Britain, and Germany were expected to discuss with Jalili incentives for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment with Burns looking on.

Iran is defying three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions aimed at forcing it halt uranium enrichment.

Formal contacts between the United States and Iran have been rare since 1979, although the two countries held three rounds of talks at ambassadorial level in 2007 over security in Iraq.

Recent reports have suggested the United States is considering opening a diplomatic mission in the form of a U.S. interests section in Tehran.

compiled from agency reports

Copyright (c) 2008. 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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