WASHINGTON – The Obama administration said Wednesday it will participate directly in group talks with Iran over its suspect nuclear program, marking another shift from former President George W. Bush's policy.
State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the United States would be at the table "from now on" when senior diplomats from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany meet with Iranian officials to discuss the nuclear issue. The Bush administration had generally shunned such meetings.
Wood said the decision was conveyed to representatives of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia by the third-ranking U.S. diplomat William Burns at a Wednesday meeting in London. That group, known as the "P5+1," announced earlier that it would invite Iran to attend a new session aimed at breaking a deadlock in the talks.
"The U.S. remains committed to the P5+1 process, what is different is that the U.S. will join P5+1 discussions with Iran from now on," Wood told reporters, adding that Washington was hopeful Iran would attend.
"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," he said. "Any breakthrough will be the result of the collective efforts of all the parties, including Iran."
"If Iran accepts the invitation we look forward to that direct engagement," Wood said.
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