TEHRAN, Iran – Iran is willing to talk with the United States about a nuclear program that Washington alleges is aimed at secretly acquiring the bomb, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said Monday. The White House, however, rejected the idea.
Germany, Britain and France launched new negotiations with Iran on Monday to try to persuade Tehran to abandon any nuclear program that could be used for weapons, in return for aid to build up its civilian energy program.
Kharrazi told a news conference that talks with Washington could also be possible. The United States broke diplomatic relations with Iran after militant students seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979. ‘If negotiations are on the basis of equality and mutual respect in the same way we are talking to Europeans now, there is no reason not to talk to others,’ Kharrazi said when asked whether Tehran was also willing to talk to the United States about its nuclear program. The White House made plain it has no intention of joining the talks. ‘When it comes to Iran, we are very supportive of the efforts by our European friends to get Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. And we stay in close contact with our European friends on their discussions and the progress that they have made … That’s the way we’re approaching this issue,’ White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. ‘What we believe is important is that ultimately Iran agree to end its nuclear weapons program, not just suspend it.’ Iran’s reformers support dialogue with Washington but hard-liners are opposed to any rapprochement, arguing that the only U.S. goal is to bring about the collapse of the ruling Islamic establishment. Some Europeans have hoped America’s possible engagement in talks with Iran would increase pressure on Tehran to permanently abandon their weapons program.