CBNNews.com - America's third highest-ranking diplomat will attend talks with an Iranian envoy in Geneva, Switzerland, on Saturday.
But Undersecretary of State William Burns - a top U.S. Diplomat - has no plans to meet separately with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili.
The goal of these talks is to persuade Iran to halt activities that could lead to the development of nuclear weapons, a senior U.S. official told the Associated Press on Tuesday.
It will be the first time such a high-ranking U.S. official has attended such talks.
Although Washington is part of a six-nation effort to get Iran to stop enriching uranium, the administration has shunned direct contacts with Tehran in the belief that an isolationist policy would give the U.S. more diplomatic leverage.
A senior U.S. official stressed that that there would be no separate meeting between Burns and Jalili and that Burns would not negotiate with him.
"This is a one-time event and he will be there to listen, not negotiate," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official said President Bush gave the move his stamp of approval.
"It's designed to press the advantage, show that we are serious about the diplomatic path, but that there are consequences if Iran doesn't accept the offer. The Iranians have an opportunity here," the official told AFP.
U.S. contact with Iran has recently been limited only to discussions about the security situation in Iraq, where Washington accuses Iran of supporting insurgents.
The two countries have not had diplomatic relations since the hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran after the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana will lead this weekend's talks.
Solana is seeking an answer from the Iranians to an offer of incentives that the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany presented last month.
The package of incentives -- accompanied by a letter from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the foreign ministers of the other five countries -- presents a scenario in which Iran would get a temporary reprieve from economic and financial sanctions in exchange for freezing its enrichment activities.
Iran has responded to the offer, but has indicated it has no plans to comply with the key demand - a halt to its enrichment of uranium.
Source: The Associated Press, The Los Angeles Times, AFP