White House: U.S. Won't Negotiate Directly With Iran

The United States will not negotiate directly with Iran on its nuclear program, President Bush's spokesman said Wednesday, although he left open the door for talks if Tehran proves it has permanently stopped all nuclear weapons activities.

"Until they do that, there is going to be no change in the administration's posture (or) in the president's posture when it comes to one-on-one negotiations," said White House press secretary Tony Snow. "We will continue to use appropriate international forums and work with and through our allies when it comes to dealing with the government in Iran."

Snow repeated the administration's demand that Iran must suspend all uranium enrichment and processing in a verifiable, credible and permanent manner.

"When that happens, all right, then there may be some opportunities," Snow said. But he would not elaborate on what those opportunities might be. "I'm going no further," he said.

Iran and the United States have refused to hold bilateral exchanges since soon after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The only publicly acknowledged discussions between the two countries came in early 2003, as the United States was building up military forces in the Persian Gulf ahead of the Iraq war.

The U.S. ambassador in Iraq has said he has been authorized to hold discussions with Iran specifically about the situation in Iraq, rather than broader subjects like the nuclear program. Similarly, U.S. officials in Afghanistan have had talks with Iranian officials about anti-drug measures in Afghanistan. But negotiations with Tehran on nuclear issues are being handled through U.S. allies in Europe.

Iran insists it is only interested in nuclear technology to generate electricity, but the international community increasingly fears it plans to build a nuclear bomb.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Iran has made requests for direct talks with the Bush administration on the nuclear program. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack confirmed that Iran has been showing interest in holding talks with the United States through intermediaries, but he said the United States has not replied.

Snow said it's clear Iran's leaders are trying to "negotiate through the press."

"It's very clear the pressure has begun to pay off," Snow said. "They want to change the subject, and we're not going to let them."