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Biden Says U.S. Ready To Meet Bilaterally Over Iran Nuclear Crisis


U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden (file photo)
U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden has said at a major international security conference in Germany that the United States is willing to meet bilaterally with the Iranian leadership over the Iranian nuclear crisis.

Biden said that said Washington's longstanding offer to meet bilaterally in addition to multinational negotiations still "stands, but it must be real...and there has to be an agenda that they are not just prepared to do it for the exercise."

He told attendees at the Munich Security Conference on February 2 that "the ball is in the Iranian government's court" and the goal of the U.S. administration is not containment but to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

The vice president was speaking at the opening of the second day of the conference, a gathering of some 400 top diplomats and defense officials from the EU, United States, Russia, and many other countries.

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Top concerns for the conference are the Iranian nuclear crisis and the conflicts in Syria and Mali.

Security and stability in southeastern Europe and the Caucasus were also on the agenda in Munich for February 2.

In his speech, Biden also stressed U.S. refusal to recognize the independence of Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The conference wraps up around midday on February 3.

Panetta Warns Over Tehran

Outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta meanwhile accused Iran of accelerating its campaign to destabilize the Middle East.

In an interview in "The Wall Street Journal," Panetta accused Tehran of smuggling antiaircraft weapons to militant allies. On January 23, Yemen intercepted a ship carrying weapons, including surface-to-air missiles. U.S. officials suspect Iran had tried to ship the weapons to insurgents in Yemen. Iran denies the charge.

Panetta went on to say the United States was stepping up efforts to counter the Iranian threat.

With additional reporting by AFP, Reuters, and "The New York Times"