U.S. talks with Iran must be based on concrete steps by Tehran-Kerry


By Lesley Wroughton

TOKYO, Oct 3 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerrysaid on Thursday that the United States hopes to engage with thenew Iranian administration, but Tehran must first prove it iswilling to end the stand-off over its nuclear weapons program.

If Iran intends to be peaceful, "I believe there is a way toget there," Kerry told a news conference in Tokyo after ameeting of U.S. and Japanese defences and foreign ministers.

Kerry expressed hope that engagement with President HassanRouhani's government can succeed but said nothing would be takenat face value.

Discussions would be based on a series of steps thatguarantee "we have certainty about what is happening," Kerrysaid.

In a charm offensive at U.N. meetings in New York last week,Iran expressed willingness to resolve the 10-year-old disputewith the United States over its nuclear program, a move thatIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed as a ruseconcocted by a "wolf in sheep's clothing".

Addressing Netanyahu's concerns over talks with Iran, Kerrysaid: "We are firmly determined that Israel's security remainsparamount."

He dismissed suggestions that the United States was beingplayed by Iran.

"There is nothing here that is going to be taken atface-value and we've made that clear," Kerry said. "Thepresident has said, and I have said, that it is not words thatwill make a difference, it's actions, and the actions areclearly going to have to be sufficient."

The United States, Israel and other countries accuse Iran ofusing its nuclear program to try to develop the capability toproduce weapons. Iran says the program is for peaceful purposesonly.

"It would be diplomatic malpractice of the worst order" forthe United States not to explore opportunities, said Kerry, whomet his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif at the UnitedNations last week, the highest-level official meeting betweenthe United States and Iran in more than three decades.

"We are going to look very very carefully at this. We hopeit could work because we think the world would be better off,"Kerry said, adding: "A country that genuinely wants to have apeaceful program does not have difficulty proving that it is infact peaceful, so this ought to be able to be done.

"The test we face over these next weeks and months, not along period of time, is to determine whether or not that is infact what Iran intends," Kerry added.

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