U.S. reverses course, will send envoy to talks with Iran
The Bush administration has decided to break with previous policy by sending one of its most senior diplomats to engage Iran's top nuclear official, the White House announced Wednesday.
Undersecretary of State William Burns will head to Switzerland for talks on Saturday.
The move could dramatically alter the three-decade stand-off between the U.S. and Iran. Some western nations and Israel suspect Iran is intent on developing nuclear weapons and want Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment. Iran says it wants to develop nuclear power to produce electricity.
Undersecretary of State William Burns will accompany a European Union delegation during a meeting with Saeed Jalili, Iran's top nuclear official, in Switzerland on Saturday, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said. The delegation meeting with the Iranians will be led by the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana.
The delegates will discuss an incentives program meant to encourage the Islamic republic to drop its nuclear enrichment program, Perino said. Watch Amanpour report on the U.S. decision to send Burns »
"I would say that while some have indicated out of Iran that they would not accept the [incentives] package, there have been others have said they would," said said.
The U.S. decision to attend the talks is not "linked in any way" to Iran's missile tests last week, a senior administration official told CNN. The official said the meeting "had been pending before" the tests occurred. See why the U.S. is worried about Iran's missiles »
But State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters Wednesday that the president and his national security team decided only recently to send Burns to the meeting.