Biden backs direct talks with Iran over nuclear program
MUNICH — The United States is ready for direct talks with Iran if it is serious about negotiations, Vice President Joe Biden said on Saturday, backing bilateral contact that some say is crucial to easing a dispute over Tehran's nuclear program.
Speaking at a security conference in Munich, Biden said Iran is confronting “the most robust sanctions in history.”
“But we have also made clear that Iran's leaders need not sentence their people to economic deprivation and international isolation,” Biden said. “There is still time, there is still space for diplomacy backed by pressure to succeed. The ball is in the government of Iran's court.”
To date, fitful talks on Iran's nuclear program have been overseen by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on behalf of France, Britain, Germany, China, Russia and the United States. They have made scant headway, raising fears that Iran is playing for time while it develops nuclear know-how.
Analysts have suggested that with his re-election behind him, President Obama might have more leeway to take on direct negotiations with Iran.
That makes the year ahead critical for chances of overcoming a stand-off that, if left to fester further, could see Iran approach nuclear weapons capability, possibly provoking military action by Israel that could inflame the Middle East.
Progress on Iran could help ease regional tensions as the United States prepares to pull most combat troops out of Afghanistan, Iran's neighbor, by the end of 2014.
Asked whether Washington might consider direct talks with Iran to smooth the process, Biden said: “When the Iranian leadership, Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei), is serious.
“We have made it clear at the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally with the Iranian leadership, we would not make it a secret that we were doing that. We would let our partners know if that occasion presented itself.
“That offer stands, but it must be real and tangible, and there has to be an agenda that they are prepared to speak to. We are not just prepared to do it for the exercise,” Biden said.
Ashton of the EU, who has asked Iran to hold a round of talks this month, on Friday called on Tehran to abandon plans to install and operate advanced centrifuges that would speed up its ability to enrich uranium — potentially making it easier for it to produce the highly enriched uranium needed for nuclear weapons.
Many believe no deal is possible without a U.S.-Iranian thaw, requiring direct talks addressing myriad sources of mutual mistrust and hostility that have lingered since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution and the hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
Iran has avoided direct, public talks with the United States, though some suggest Tehran eventually would welcome an opportunity to end its international isolation.
Speaking during a news conference in Munich, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he would have no objection to direct talks but questioned how much would be achieved if fundamental questions about Iran's nuclear program remain unresolved.
“I don't know when we will have direct talks between the United States and Iran. That is a subject for the president of the United States. I don't think anyone here objects to that,” McCain said.
He added, “To have grounds for optimism, I think, would be a mistake.”
Russia, which has been impatient with decades of U.S. hostility to Tehran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution, repeated on Saturday the need to find a diplomatic solution.
“Iran must know the overall game plan; it must see what is in it for it in this process. We need to convince Iran that this is not about regime change. ... This mistrust must be overcome,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the conference.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Hitler painting expected to fetch $60K at auction
- Islamic State drive for Kobani blunted
- Crowds in Ukraine show lingering tensions amid Biden visit to back pro-West officials
- U.S. mulls more aid for Syrian rebels
- ‘Hunger Games’ salute leads to arrests
- Interpol seeks environmental crime suspects
- China reportedly assembling island big enough for airstrip
- Grocer’s holiday ad unnerves Brits
- Bandits in Guinea steal suspected Ebola blood
- Obama extols China’s growth at Asia-Pacific summit
- Border Patrol agent who shot Mexican teen identified