Rice: Iran talks not a change in policy

"Sending Burns to Geneva on Saturday is strong signal that the US is serious about diplomacy."

iran turkey talks 224 88 (photo credit: )
iran turkey talks 224 88
(photo credit: )
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is denying that a decision to send a senior diplomat to nuclear talks with Iran amounts to a change in policy. The Bush administration previously had insisted it would not speak with the Iranians until they end suspect nuclear activities. Rice says the move to send Undersecretary of State William Burns to talks in Geneva on Saturday is a "strong signal" that the United States is serious about diplomacy. But she added that US negotiating conditions remain. Rice said Friday that Undersecretary of State William Burns would reinforce the policy "that the United States has been pursuing since 2006." On the eve of the meeting, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the talks themselves give hope "that there can be a peaceful solution" to the standoff over Teheran's nuclear program. But he also told reporters he expects no quick changes from Iran, which has said "the essentials" - an apparent reference to suspending uranium enrichment - will not be on the table. "After the Geneva meeting, we must not hope for an improvement, a change of attitude, right away," he said in Paris. Still, the venue of Saturday's talks reflects the potential significance of the meeting. Envoy Javier Solana and Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili, start at 11 a.m. American officials have insisted that Burns' presence will be a "one-time event" and he will listen to the Iranians but will not be negotiating. Policy hawks disagree. John Bolton, former US ambassador to the United Nations and undersecretary of state in charge of Teheran's nuclear file, said the move represents a "U-turn" in US policy. "To the Iranians, it will send a sign of the political weakness of a (US) administration in its last days and desperate for a deal," he told The Associated Press. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, speaking in Ankara on Friday, said the talks could also result in agreements to open a US interest-protection bureau in Iran and have direct flights between the two nations.