Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

On meeting's eve, Iran warms to U.S. overtures

GENEVA — The United States and Iran, poised to meet today in their first face-to-face talks on Iran's nuclear program, sent more signals Friday that they may be ready to step away from confrontation and begin a grueling process to resolve three decades of hostility.

Until now, the Bush administration has refused to hold direct talks with Iran, except under the precondition that Iran heed U.N. demands to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can produce nuclear-weapons fuel.

Iran, which says it is legally enriching uranium to produce fuel for power-generating reactors, welcomed the sudden U.S. reversal of policy on Friday.

"The new negotiating process (and) the participation of a U.S. diplomat look positive from the outset," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said during a visit to Turkey. "We hope that is reflected in the talks."

He praised Bush's decision to send Undersecretary of State William Burns, the third most senior American diplomat, to the talks as "a new positive approach."

Mottaki said he also hoped deals could be reached on direct air links between Iran and the United States and the opening of the first American diplomatic office in Tehran since the sides broke relations after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reiterated Friday that the Bush administration won't enter full-scale negotiations with Iran until it agrees to a full freeze of uranium enrichment.

"It should be very clear to everyone, the United States has a condition for the beginning of negotiations with Iran, and that condition remains the verifiable suspension of Iran's enrichment and reprocessing activities," Rice said in Washington.

The shift to direct talks follows months of rising tensions over the nuclear issue, fueled by Iranian missile launches, U.S. and Israeli threats to destroy what they charge is a secret Iranian nuclear-weapons program and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's calls for Israel's destruction.

The Geneva talks between European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, were called to hear the formal Iranian response to a package of economic, political and security incentives offered by the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany.

In return, Iran must suspend its uranium enrichment work — something it's repeatedly refused to do — and open negotiations on the future of the nuclear program it hid from international monitoring for 18 years.

To encourage Iran, the powers are offering to withhold new sanctions on the country for six weeks if it freezes the installation of centrifuges — the machines used to produce low-enriched and highly enriched uranium — for the same period.

Iran gave mixed signals to the offer, which Solana carried to Tehran in June.

Today's key meeting

A senior U.S. envoy, Undersecretary of State William Burns, will sit eye-to-eye today with a top Iranian nuclear negotiator, a sharp reversal in U.S. policy that aims to entice Tehran into ending activities that could be used to make atomic weapons. Burns, who just took over the State Department's No. 3 post, played a key role in secret U.S. and British talks with Libya that convinced Tripoli to give up its weapons of mass destruction programs.

The venue of the talks reflects the potential significance of the meeting: the Hotel de Ville, or city hall, which stands at the top of Geneva's Old Town. Its neoclassical rooms have hosted important international negotiations since 1872, when an arbitration tribunal ordered Britain to pay the United States $15.5-million in Civil War damages. It was also the first home of the League of Nations, predecessor of today's United Nations.

>>fast facts

Today's meeting in Geneva

A senior U.S. envoy, Undersecretary of State William Burns, will sit eye-to-eye today with a top Iranian nuclear negotiator, a sharp reversal in U.S. policy that aims to entice Tehran into ending activities that could be used to make atomic weapons. Burns, who just took over the State Department's No. 3 post, played a key role in secret U.S. and British talks with Libya that persuaded Tripoli to give up its weapons of mass destruction programs.

A little history: The venue of the talks reflects the potential significance of the meeting: the Hotel de Ville, or city hall, which stands at the top of Geneva's Old Town. Its neoclassical rooms have hosted important international negotiations since 1872, when an arbitration tribunal ordered Britain to pay the United States $15.5-million in Civil War damages. It was also the first home of the League of Nations, predecessor of today's United Nations.

On meeting's eve, Iran warms to U.S. overtures 07/18/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 1, 2010 4:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Dade City's Wild Things blocks PETA officials at gates for court-ordered site inspection

    Wildlife

    Times Staff Writer

    DADE CITY — Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show.

    Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show. This comes four days after 19 Wild Things tigers arrived at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma. A judge had granted an emergency injunction July 14, ordering Stearns not remove any tigers pending the upcoming PETA inspection. Photo from Facebook page of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma.
  2. St. Petersburg City Council approves $326 million sewage fix

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — Last week the City Council learned no criminal charges would result from the up to 200 million gallons of sewage St. Petersburg's sewer system released from …

    [LARA CERRI  |  Times]
  3. Pasco commuters watch out: Broken water main restricts State Road 52

    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A water main break has caused a portion of State Road 52 — one of the busiest roads in Pasco County — to buckle on Thursday afternoon, reducing three lanes of westbound traffic to just one.

  4. Man taken into custody after live streaming drive along Clearwater Beach sand

    Public Safety

    CLEARWATER — Clearwater Police took a man into custody Thursday afternoon after, they said, he drove his car over beach chairs and umbrellas along Clearwater Beach and streamed it on Facebook.

    Clearwater Police took a suspect into custody Thursday afternoon after he drove along Clearwater Beach to Caladesi Island, running over beach chairs and umbrellas. [Courtesy of Clearwater Police]
  5. Once trapped and wounded, manatee and calf return to the wild

    Wildlife

    NEW PORT RICHEY — The small crowd readied cameras and craned their necks, peering over heads and through bodies to try and catch a glimpse. Brittany Pharel, 10, wanted to see the hulking manatees, a mother and her calf, laid out on blue tarps Thursday along the edge of the Pithlachascotee River.

    Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo's associate veterinarian Lauren Smith, 33, examines the heart rate of a manatee calf named Cottee just before it was released into the waters of the Pithlachascotee River on Thursday. 
Cottee's mother Pascow was released at the same time in New Port Richey. 
The pair became stranded in May and the mother was found wounded. They needed to be rehabilitated before they could be released into open waters. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times]