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Iran: US Presence at Nuclear Talks A Positive Step

Iran: United States Presence at Nuclear Talks a 'Positive' Development'

Iran's foreign minister says U.S. participation at talks with Iran on Tehran's controversial nuclear program is "positive."

Manouchehr Mottaki spoke Thursday, after the United States announced it is sending a senior envoy to join talks with Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana Saturday in Geneva.

Iran's state news agency (IRNA) quoted Mottaki as saying the presence of U.S. Under Secretary of State William Burns at the meeting will help Washington listen to Iran directly.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday Burns is joining the talks to show America's firm support for a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear dispute.

Attendance by Burns will mark a shift in U.S. policy. The Bush administration has long insisted on shunning nuclear talks with Iran until it stops enriching uranium.

Rice also said Burns is attending the meeting to show that the United States and other world powers are united in their efforts to end the standoff with Iran.

Germany and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council have called on Iran to halt its uranium enrichment work, which could produce weapons-grade nuclear material. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.

In another development, the U.S. State Department Thursday declined to confirm or deny a report in Britain's Guardiannewspaper that the Bush administration has decided to set up a diplomatic "interests section" in Tehran. The newspaper said the announcement would be made within the next month.

ENDS

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