Bush Likely to Leave Decision on Iran Diplomatic Post to Obama

"Something that reaches out to the Iranian people is very important," Rice said. (By Susan Biddle -- The Washington Post)
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Bloomberg News
Thursday, November 27, 2008

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said a decision on opening a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Iran probably will be left to the Obama administration.

President Bush had decided in principle to pursue setting up an office in Tehran, but the plan was interrupted by the war between Russia and Georgia in August.

"At this late moment, I think it is probably better that this decision be left to the next administration," Rice told reporters yesterday during a briefing. "Within the context of a firm policy toward Iran, something that reaches out to the Iranian people is very important."

An interests section, as such low-level diplomatic posts are known, would put American diplomats back in the Iranian capital for the first time in almost three decades. The United States severed formal diplomatic relations after the 1979 hostage crisis, when Islamic student revolutionaries took over the U.S. Embassy.

Iran's emergence as a potential nuclear power has elevated the country's importance on the U.S. agenda. The Iranian government is defying international demands to curtail its nuclear-development program, which the United States suspects may be intended for building a weapon.

President-elect Barack Obama has said he wants to confront that situation by expanding diplomacy with Iran as part of a broader assessment of Middle East interests. Bush limited diplomatic contacts with the Iranian government to cooperation on helping Afghanistan and examining disputes involving Iraq. European governments, with U.S. backing, have taken the lead on talking with Iran about the nuclear program.

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