Work on sanctions against Iran continues but US ready to talk

"Work continues in New York" at the UN headquarters, State Department spokesman P J Crowley said on progress with regard to the draft to impose fresh sanctions against Iran, distributed by the United States to other members of the Security Council.

However, the US and its international partners represented by P5 + 1 (the five Permanent members of the UN Security Council - US, Britain, Russia, China and France; plus Germany) are still willing to have a dialogue with Iran, Crowley said.

But at the top of any such dialogue, Iran's nuclear weapons programme has to be on top, he insisted.

"It is Iran that is in defiance of many UN Security Council resolutions. In the joint declaration, Iran has indicated a willingness to engage the P-5+1," Crowley said.

Meanwhile, the US has insisted that Iran's nuclear programme will be on the top of any such dialogue. "We want to be sure that at the top of the list of any prospective engagement is the Iran nuclear program."

"If Iran wishes to have that engagement, and we would welcome that engagement, it can pick up the phone and call Catherine Ashton of the EU (European Union) and set up a meeting," the spokesman said.

The State Department has said that Iran had an option available for talks since Geneva meeting in last October and if it is ready for a follow-up dialogue, the US would welcome it.

"We've made ourselves available since October and it has been Iran that has failed to come forward and seek that engagement," Crowley said.

Meanwhile, another State Department official accused Iran of being sponsor of terrorism.

"It's important not to forget that Iran remains the foremost state sponsor of terrorism, supporting Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist Palestinian groups," said Daniel Benjamin, Coordinator, Office of the Coordinator for Counter-terrorism, in the State Department.

The official also blamed Syria for providing  political and material support to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

"In early April, we reiterated our grave concerns and alarm to the Syrians over reports that they may have provided SCUD missiles to Hezbollah," he said in his speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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