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U.S. to Talk Directly With Iran on Nuclear Program

BY Admin  April 8, 2009 at 3:27 PM EDT

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Iran says its nuclear program is for civilian energy purposes, but the United States and several of its allies suspect its uranium enrichment activities are intended for a nuclear weapon.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters on Wednesday that the United States would be a “full participant” in talks by major powers with Iran over its nuclear program.

“Obviously we believe that pursuing very careful engagement on a range of issues that affect our interests and the interests of the world with Iran makes sense,” she said, according to Reuters. There is nothing more important than trying to convince Iran to cease its efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon.”

The State Department said the United States would be involved in discussions with senior diplomats from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany when they meet with Iranian officials to discuss the nuclear issue. The Bush administration had generally avoided such meetings, though it attended one last year.

State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the decision was conveyed to representatives of Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia by the third-ranking U.S. diplomat William Burns at a meeting in London on Wednesday, reported the Associated Press. That group, known as the “P5+1,” announced earlier that it would invite Iran to attend a new session aimed at restarting talks on the issue.

“The U.S. remains committed to the P5+1 process; what is different is that the U.S. will join P5+1 discussions with Iran from now on,” Wood said.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana plans to extend the invitation to Iranians. In a statement, the group said it welcomed the “new direction” of U.S. policy toward Iran. No timeframe was given for when a meeting would take place, according to the AP.

President Obama said earlier this year that the United States was prepared to extend a hand to Iran if it “unclenched its fist.”

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said his country welcomes talks with the United States should it prove to be “honest” in extending its hand toward Iran.