The United States intends to station diplomats in Iran for the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution which saw a severence of ties between the two countries, The Guardian reported on Thursday.
The move would be a step in the direction of setting up a full embassy in Iran, a dramatic political shift for the Bush administration, which has spent the last few years guiding international pressure on Tehran over its contentious nuclear program.
The Guardian report comes a day after the U.S. announced plans to send a senior envoy to meet with a senior Iranian representative to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, an announcement met with concern in Israel.
“There is a bad feeling in Israel and dissatisfaction with the U.S. move,” Israel told senior Washington officials, according to a source in Jerusalem. “There can be no concession on the demand to end uranium enrichment as a precondition to negotiating with Iran,” Israel added.
UN Security Council members, Germany and the European Union have been holding regular meetings with Iranian representatives, and U.S. Under Secretary of State William Burns, considered No. 3 in the State Department, will be participating for the first time.
The U.S. informed Israel of its plans to send Burns to the talks, emphasizing that this is a one-time meeting and not a change in policy.
The source said the Americans considered the talks “feelers” to test whether it should be speaking with Iran.
The U.S. also claims it is sending an envoy to the talks because it “doesn’t trust” the reports from EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, the liaison with the Iranians. The Americans said Solana “pulls the wool over our eyes,” according to the source in Jerusalem.
Israel emphasized to the U.S. that “there is great importance in maintaining the international demand to suspend uranium enrichment, as mandated by the UN resolution, as a precondition to entering negotiations with Iran. We believe there can be no concession on this demand,” the source said. The Americans responded that “the condition remains.”
Iranian FM in Syria for talks with Assad
Iran’s foreign minister arrived in Damascus on Thursday for talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that will likely cover Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.
Manouchehr Mottaki said on arrival Thursday that he’ll discuss the latest Mideast developments with Assad.
But the two are also expected to discuss a request by the French president that Assad help persuade Tehran to cooperate with the international community over its nuclear ambitions.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy met Assad at a Euro-Med summit last weekend in Paris. Assad promised to relay the request from France to Tehran.
Syria and Iran are close allies, but Assad has expressed doubt that his intervention can help in a fierce standoff between Iran and the West.
By Barak Ravid,