US 'open to Iran talks'

US vice-president says Washington is 'willing to talk' to Tehran if it abandons nuclear work.

    Biden is making his visit to Europe since he
    became the US vice-president [AFP]

    Biden was speaking to the conference as part of his first visit to Europe as US vice-president.

    Missile defence

    The United States will continue with its missile defence shield programme if it is shown to be effective but Russia will be addressed over the plans, Biden said.

    "We will continue to develop missile defence to counter a growing Iranian capability, provided the technology is proven and it is cost effective. We will do so in consultation with you, our Nato allies, and with Russia," he said.

    In depth
    Washington says the shield is meant to counter a growing ballistic missile threat from Iran.

    But the plan has angered Russia, which sees it as a threat to its own missile capabilities.

    Biden's trip to Europe comes just over two weeks after he and Barack Obama, the US president, took office.

    Al Jazeera's Mark Seddon, reporting from Munich, said that other leaders at the conference would be paying close attention to the details in Biden's speech.

    "People will be examining that speech, listening to what's in it and for what's also not in it," he said.
    "Because gone are the words: axis of evil, war on terror ... what we will be hearing will be very much about soft power: diplomacy, engagement, multilateralism, all the beloved words of diplomats are coming back."

    Foreign-policy doctrine

    Biden also said that the United States will aim to to lead global efforts to combat climate change.

    "We are prepared to once again lead by example. America will act aggressively against climate change and in pursuit of energy security with like-minded nations," he said.

    The US vice-president also said that Obama will take part in a summit of the G20 group of industrialised and developing nations in April, in an attempt to address the global economic crisis.

    "To the greatest extent possible, we must co-operate, make sure that our actions are complementary, and do our utmost to combat this global [financial] crisis," he said.

    "The United States is doing its part and president Obama looks forward to taking this message to the G20 meeting in London in April," he said.

    Russia dialogue

    The Munich conference has often been the venue for US administrations to reveal their thinking on foreign policy doctrine.

    Biden is set to meet Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor; Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister; Yulia Tymoshenko, his Ukrainian counterpart; and Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president.

    On the sidelines of the conference, Biden will hold talks on Sunday with Sergei Ivanov, the Russian deputy prime minister, after stating in his speech that Washington was willing "to press the reset button" over the two nations' relations.

    "It is time to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should work together," he said.

    Ivanov, for his part, has said that Moscow would not start new missile deployments if Washington reviewed plans for a missile defence system in central Europe.

    He said Moscow is eager to hold talks on the shield with the Obama administration and is open to a joint assessment of threats with the US.

    Separately, the Russian foreign minister has said that Moscow is ready to further reduce its nuclear-missile arsenal in line with its national interests if talks go ahead with Washington on a new treaty.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


    How different voting systems work around the world

    How different voting systems work around the world

    Nearly two billion voters in 52 countries around the world will head to the polls this year to elect their leaders.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    How the art world's hunger for ancient artefacts is destroying a centuries-old culture. A journey across the Himalayas.