Biden renews offer of talks with Iran over nuclear agenda


US vice-president Joe Biden has renewed Washington’s offer of direct talks with Iran on its nuclear ambitions.

Mr Biden is expected to outline the offer at the Munich Security Conference today, also attended by the Iranian foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi.

The vice-president said yesterday that the US was interested in “pushing forward” to see if “we can open a dialogue” aimed at preventing Iran developing a nuclear capability.

He said the “burden of proof” that Iran is not seeking nuclear capability, as western countries believe, lay with Tehran.

“We will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” said Mr Biden to the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily yesterday. However Washington believed “there is time and space for successful diplomacy, supported by economic pressure . . . however this window will not remain open indefinitely”.

German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle welcomed Mr Biden’s remarks, saying he would meet his Iranian counterpart over the weekend.

Dismissed concerns

“This is a hand that is extending to the Iranian government and we will urge the Iranian government to take them up on this offer,” said Mr Westerwelle. “Direct talks between Washington and Tehran are in the interest of all of our security, also in our interests as Europeans so we will make our contribution to creating the necessary atmosphere.”

After talks in Berlin with German chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr Biden dismissed concerns that the US was turning away from the transatlantic relationship, which he said remained the “basis of our entire relationship with the world”.

However he warned that, without a strong Europe, “it is not conceivable how America’s interests can be achieved around the world”.

Talks with Dr Angela Merkel overran by nearly an hour.

This showed, said the veteran vice-president, that the two “had a great deal to talk about”.