U.N. Powers Discuss Next Iran Move

Senior officials representing the U.N. Security Council's permanent members, and Germany, meet in London to discuss Iran's nuclear program. The meeting could initiate new negotiations between Iran and the EU. Iran, reportedly, would like to make direct contact with the U.S.

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Representatives of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany, are meeting today in London to finalize new proposals to Iran on its controversial nuclear activities. The meeting could initiate new negotiations between Iran and the European Union. So far, there have been no direct talks between the U.S. and Iran. The Washington Post reports today that behind the scenes, Iranian officials are seeking direct contact with Washington.

And that's not the only message coming from Tehran, as NPR's Mike Shuster reports.

MIKE SHUSTER reporting:

Some senior Iranian officials have been hinting for months that they would like to hold direct talks with U.S. officials on a broad agenda of problems, including the nuclear issue. Those officials are loosely grouped around Iran's supreme religious leader, Ali Khamenei, who is viewed as a pragmatic conservative here. Iran's more hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has not associated himself with that approach. And his frequent speeches have indicated little interest in talking with the United States.

But the report in today's Washington Post, citing U.S. officials, foreign diplomats and Iranian analysts, suggests that the two leaders, Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, now are both sending private signals that they would like direct contacts with the U.S. on the growing nuclear crisis.

Still, that's not the whole story of the current U.S.-Iran interaction. For months, it was expected that the U.S. and Iran would begin actual talks on the situation in Iraq. President Bush authorized such talks late last year and then Iran's supreme religious leader agreed a few months later. Now those talks appear all but dead.

Iran's Foreign Ministry says the government here no longer deems talks on Iraq necessary. Foreign Ministry officials concluded that the Bush Administration was not serious about this when, Washington announced no talks could take place before the formation of a permanent government in Baghdad. The Americans have been playing games with us, one senior Foreign Ministry official told NPR earlier this week, adding, we don't trust their sincerity in this case.

Some here in Tehran had hoped that talks initially focused on Iraq could expand to include other issues, possibly the nuclear crisis. A few months ago, there were strong hints to that effect coming from Tehran. Signals from Iran are always mixed and that seems no less true today.

Mike Shuster, NPR News, Tehran.

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