- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Obama administration, in yet another overture to Iran, said Wednesday that it will participate in European Union-led negotiations with the Islamic republic on its nuclear program that Washington has avoided so far.

In a break with the Bush administration, the Obama White House dropped a key condition for U.S. participation in the talks - that Tehran stop enriching uranium, which it insists is for civilian purposes but can be also used to build a nuclear weapon.

The decision was announced as top diplomats from the six-nation group dealing with the issue met in London. The group is known as the “P5+1” and includes the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - the U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China - as well as Germany.

“What is different is that the U.S. will join P5+1 discussions with Iran from now on,” State Department spokesman Robert A. Wood told reporters. “If Iran accepts, we hope this will be the occasion to seriously engage Iran on how to break the logjam of recent years and work in a cooperative manner to resolve the outstanding international concerns about its nuclear program.”

The group has offered Tehran a package of political and economic incentives in exchange for suspending uranium enrichment, but Iran has refused to do so. That has led to three rounds of U.N. sanctions.

The Obama administration has made a series of overtures in effort to directly engage Iran in keeping with President Obama's campaign pledge.

An Iranian deputy foreign minister had a brief exchange with Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, at a conference on Afghanistan in the Netherlands last month. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has said Iran will talk with the U.S. but that Washington must change its antagonistic behavior toward Iran.

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