Michele Kearney's Nuclear Wire

Major Energy and Environmental News and Commentary affecting the Nuclear Industry.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

White House rebuffs Iran leader's call for direct talks

Washington (AFP) Aug 3, 2010 - The White House on Tuesday rebuffed a call from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for face-to-face talks with his US counterpart Barack Obama, saying Iran was not serious about discussing its nuclear program. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs nonetheless held the door open to US-Iran talks as the State Department saw signs that Tehran may now be seeking a dialogue with Washington under the pain of new sanctions. "We have always said that we'd be willing to sit down and discuss Iran's illicit nuclear program, if Iran is serious about doing that," Gibbs told reporters. "To date, that seriousness has not been there."

US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Iran may now be seeking a dialogue with Washington because it is feeling the bite of sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council, the United States, European Union and others. "The cost of doing business for Iran is going up," Crowley told reporters. "We're encouraged by what we're seeing... We sense that there may well be a willingness on the part of Iran to enter into the kind of dialogue that we have long sought," he added. He said that the series of sanctions are "getting Iran's attention."

Crowley said he based his remarks on the result of Iran's contact with the European Union's top diplomat Catherine Ashton as well as on Iran's own public statements. Apart from Ahmadinejad's call for talks with Obama, Iran said on Friday it was ready for immediate talks with the United States, Russia and France over a confidence-building exchange of nuclear fuel. He added that it was also against stockpiling higher enriched uranium, as an apparent conciliatory move to the international community worried about its potential drive to obtain the grade of uranium needed for a nuclear bomb. Crowley said: "We are willing to meet Iran any time any place within the P5-plus-1." He was referring to the permanent five UN Security Council members -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France -- plus Germany, which have been leading the diplomatic efforts to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions.

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