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. Rice to receive briefing on Iran talks in UAE
WASHINGTON, July 17 (AFP) Jul 17, 2008
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be briefed on a US-Iran meeting on the nuclear standoff when she stops in the United Arab Emirates on her way to Asia next week, her spokesman said Thursday.

On a visit to Abu Dhabi for talks with UAE leaders, Rice will meet US envoy William Burns after his unprecedented meeting Saturday in Geneva with Iran's nuclear negotiator Saad al-Jalili, spokesman Sean McCormack said.

"It will be an opportunity for him to brief her in person," McCormack told reporters.

Burns meets Salili and EU envoy Javier Solana in Geneva in what McCormack has called a "new tactic" to encourage Tehran to accept an international offer to halt uranium enrichment in return for economic and other benefits.

It will be the highest-level formal meeting between the foes in three decades.

Rice, who leaves for Abu Dhabi on Sunday, told reporters the United States is "firmly behind" the six-country diplomatic drive to halt Iran's enrichment program.

"Hopefully the Iranians will take that message," Rice said.

Asked if she expected the Iranians to respond positively to a new incentives package to halt uranium enrichment work that Solana submitted to Tehran last month, she replied: "I don't know."

Washington, which has said it will not negotiate with Iran until it first suspends enrichment, insisted Wednesday that Burns, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, would only listen to Iran's response and not negotiate.

However, analysts said the move effectively dropped the US precondition for the talks involving the United States, Russia, China, France, and Britain -- the permanent five UN Security Council members -- and Germany.

McCormack declined to confirm or deny a report in the London-based Guardian newspaper which said Washington will announce in the next month plans to establish a diplomatic presence in Iran for the first time in 30 years.

But he did say: "There's not going to be any discussion of that at this (US-Iran) meeting on Saturday."

The Guardian said Washington is seeking to set up an interests section staffed with diplomats similar to its outpost in Cuba. US officials have admitted there have been some discussions on an interests section.

Rice will meet in Abu Dhabi with her UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nayhan and possibly hold "some informal discussions" with foreign ministers from the region, McCormack said.

Sunni-led Gulf Arab states are concerned about Shiite non-Arab Iran's rising power and nuclear program, which Iran says is for peaceful nuclear energy and the West fears is geared toward making an atomic bomb.

Rice is on her way to Singapore for Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) talks on July 23 and July 24.

She is also due to visit Perth, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand as well as make stops in Apia, Samoa and Hawaii, the State Department has said.

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