( Lat )- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday the United States would not alter its demand that Iran suspend uranium enrichment before she would join talks on its nuclear program, exactly one year after she first made the offer in a dramatic gambit to halt Tehran's push to obtain nuclear expertise.
``It is time for Iran to change its tactics,'' Rice said at a news conference here, speaking ahead of planned talks in Madrid between Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani and European foreign policy chief Javier Solana. The two men have met repeatedly during the past year to find a formula to break the impasse, but to little avail.
Since Rice first made her offer, Iran has shrugged off two U.N. Security Council resolutions mandating limited sanctions.
In the enrichment process, uranium is rapidly spun in centrifuges. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported last week that during the diplomatic stall Iran has accelerated its enrichment capability and is now operating 1,312 centrifuges, more than four times the total number four months ago. But the IAEA said the level of enrichment is still much lower than that needed for a nuclear weapon.
IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei recently suggested that the time has come to accept some Iranian enrichment to win greater Iranian cooperation on inspections and limits on its program. The United States and its European partners have rejected the idea.
The Larijani-Solana meeting is the second the two men have held in a month and comes just after Iran failed to meet a 60-day deadline set by the U.N. Security Council for suspending its program. On behalf of the United States, France, Britain and Germany, Solana has been instructed to consider even a month-long suspension, but few officials expect a breakthrough.
Before the talks began, Larijani told reporters that suspending enrichment was ``not a logical way'' to resolve the nuclear issue.
Rice plans to visit Madrid Friday for talks with Spanish officials but is not expected to cross paths with Larijani. ``The international community is united on what Iran should do and that is to suspend, to demonstrate that it is, in fact, not seeking a nuclear weapon under cover of civil nuclear power,'' Rice said.
Rice spoke during a news conference with Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik. She arrived here from Berlin to attend a meeting of senior female foreign policy officials to discuss ways of empowering women in the Middle East and to address a session of the 56-country Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The U.S. ambassador in Iraq earlier this week held brief discussions with his Iranian counterpart, but the subject was limited to the situation in Iraq. A meeting between Rice and Iranian officials would end 27 years of diplomatic estrangement that started after the Iranian hostage crisis.