Diplomats from six world powers and Iran's chief negotiator hold talks
on Iran's controversial nuclear program Thursday, and U.S. officials
say there could be a chance for a bilateral meeting with the Iranians.
A senior U.S. official (who asked not to be identified)
told reporters there would be an opportunity for "sidebar" talks
between Iran and members of the five permanent United Nations Security
Council member countries (the U.S., France, Russia, Britain and China) and Germany -- during the meeting in Geneva.
Another U.S. official said the process cannot be "open-ended,"
especially after last week's revelation that Iran has a second uranium
enrichment plant under construction.
Western nations contend Iran may be enriching uranium to build nuclear
weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Iran's official news agency (IRNA) quoted Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday as saying the talks will be
a "test" of the "sincerity and commitment of some countries to law and
On the eve of Thursday's meeting, the U.S. State Department said
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was given permission to
visit Iran's diplomatic office in Washington as a courtesy.
Assistant U.S. Secretary of State (for Public Affairs) Philip Crowley downplayed the gesture, calling it a "straightforward request."
Crowley said the U.S. hopes Iran will offer gestures that it is ready to address concerns of the international community.
Earlier on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Iran
must meet its international obligations or face greater isolation and
In advance of Thursday's talks, Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili said he
views the meeting as a positive opportunity. But Iran's nuclear chief,
Ali Akbar Salehi, said Iran's right to enrich uranium is not open to
Western diplomats say a refusal by Iran to discuss its nuclear program
during Thursday's meeting could lead to the consideration of a fourth
round of sanctions against Iran.