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State Dept. official to meet Iranian negotiator

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A U.S. State Department diplomat will join a meeting in Geneva with Iran’s top arms negotiator.

In a break with the Bush administration’s policy against having direct contact with Tehran until it freezes its nuclear program, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns will sit in on Saturday’s meeting between the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, and Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili.

Burns, the State Department’s third-ranking diplomat, will not meet separately with Jalili, but will sit in on the Solana meeting while also reiterating Washington’s insistence that Tehran freeze its uranium-enrichment work in exchange for direct talks with the United States, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The Bush administration’s willingness to send Burns signals that Washington may believe that Iran is close to agreeing to freeze its nuclear program.

Meanwhile, the London newspaper The Guardian reported Thursday that the United States has plans to station diplomats in Iran for the first time since the countries broke off diplomatic relations in 1979.

“There is a bad feeling in Israel and dissatisfaction with the U.S. move,” Haaretz reported an Israeli official as telling Washington.

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