By GEIR MOULSON and DAVID RISING, Associated Press
February 3, 2013
MUNICH — The United States is prepared to hold direct talks with Iran in the standoff over its nuclear ambitions, Vice President Joe Biden said Saturday – but he insisted that Tehran must show it is serious and Washington won't engage in such talks merely for the exercise.
During a trip to an international security conference in Germany, Biden also addressed Syria's civil war. He met with top Syrian opposition leader Moaz al-Khatib and with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia, a longtime ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Separately, al-Khatib met with Lavrov for the first time, offering a glimmer of hope for stalled diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict, though the Russian minister later sounded skeptical.
Washington has indicated in the past that it's prepared to talk directly with Iran, and talks involving all five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany have made little headway while several rounds of international sanctions have cut into Iran's oil sales and financial transactions.
Last month Iran, in a defiant move ahead of new talks expected soon with the six powers, announced plans to vastly increase its pace of uranium enrichment. That can be used to make both reactor fuel and the fissile core of warheads.
Biden told an international security conference that there is still time, there is still space for diplomacy backed by pressure to succeed. He did not specify any timeframe.
He insisted that the ball is in the government of Iran's court to show that it's negotiating in good faith.