6-Nation Talks on Iran in Germany

Sunday, February 8, 2009 ·

Countries leading the drive to resolve concerns about Iran's nuclear program welcomed Wednesday the new U.S. administration's readiness to engage with Tehran, a German official said. File of an Iranian flag fluttering taken at an undisclosed location in Iran, shows a missile prior to the test fire by Iranian armed forces. Officials from the nations tackling worries over Iran's nuclear ambitions were to meet in Germany Wednesday. Foreign Ministry officials from Germany and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S. — met Wednesday in Wiesbaden, near Frankfurt, for their first meeting since President Barack Obama took office. The new U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, has said Obama's administration will engage in "direct diplomacy" with Iran. In his inaugural address, Obama addressed leaders of hostile nations by saying that "we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."

The U.S. was represented at the closed-doors meeting by the State Department's third-ranking official, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns — a career diplomat who also served under the Bush administration. In Washington, State Department spokesman Robert A. Wood said Burns will report back directly to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on his discussions in Wiesbaden. Wood said Burns was not able to tell the meeting how soon the Obama administration will complete its review of U.S. policy on Iran. "Obviously, he's not able to communicate any kind of time frame," Wood said. "As I said, that process will have to run its course, but obviously, we're very committed to trying to do it as swiftly as possible." "The readiness of the new administration to reach out to Iran was explicitly welcomed by all at today's meeting in Wiesbaden," Foreign Ministry spokesman Jens Ploetner said at a government news conference in Berlin. He underlined Germany's hopes that Iran will respond positively to the new overtures from Washington. "We hope that this outstretched hand will not be seen as a sign of weakness in Tehran," he said. Ploetner said Wednesday's meeting offered "an important opportunity to stress again the cohesion and the unity" of the six nations.

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