Brzezinski calls for direct talks
But U.S. pushes U.N. resolution with penalties, incentives
Zbigniew Brzezinski, shown in 2003, said, "We need to talk to each other to create a measure of security."
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The national security adviser under former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said Sunday that the United States should open direct talks with Iran over its nuclear program, and dismissed the current negotiations as "absurd."
"It's really ironic," Zbigniew Brzezinski told CNN's "Late Edition."
"We're not negotiating with Iran, but we are negotiating. Who are we negotiating with? We're negotiating with the negotiators with Iran. And it's an absurd situation."
The so-called EU-3 -- Britain, France and Germany -- have been leading negotiations with Iran, which stalled earlier this year. China and Russia have also been involved in negotiations.
But national security adviser Stephen Hadley told "Late Edition" that the current framework "is even better" than direct negotiations.
However, Brzezinski noted that, in the case of North Korea, the United States is one of six countries involved with direct talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program.
"The argument that the administration makes is that we can't negotiate with Iran because it will legitimate them. Well, we're legitimating North Korea, so what's the big deal?" he asked.
"The fact is there are serious differences between the United States and Iran, conflicts over security issues, over financial problems, claims and counterclaims. We need to talk to each other to create a measure of security and to be engaged."
The United States and some other countries accuse Iran of trying to build nuclear weapons under the guise of a peaceful nuclear energy program, a charge Iran denies.
By "pumping up an atmosphere of urgency," Brzezinski said, U.S. officials fail to consider that Iran is likely years away from being able to build a nuclear weapon.
"The fact is that the earliest, by most intelligence analyses, the Iranians will have nuclear weapons is approximately five years, more likely 10. Some even say 15," he said.
"So there is time to set in motion a negotiating process which is multilateral, bilateral; we participate in it and then we address some of the issues that concern us."
If the United States were able to address Iranian concerns on a range of issues, "we might be able to contrive an arrangement whereby they're allowed to process but in a fashion that gives all of us security that they're not building weapons."
But Hadley said the current efforts under way at U.N. headquarters in New York ought to be pursued.
"There needs to be a Chapter 7 resolution coming out of the United Nations Security Council that makes clear what Iran needs to do, in terms of reassuring the international community that it has given up its weapons ambitions," Hadley said.
"We are looking at the kinds of sanctions that might be applied if it does not make the right choice. We're also looking at the kinds of benefits that might be applied if Iran does make the right choice."
"We have a number of countries that are engaged with Iran on this issue. We are supportive of those discussions," Hadley said.
The U.N. Security Council is considering a resolution that would demand Iran give up its production of nuclear fuel or face penalties that could include economic sanctions.
A European diplomat said last week that Britain, France and Germany were cobbling together a U.N. package that would also include incentives to induce Iran to halt its nuclear program.
The United States, Britain and France want a resolution under Chapter 7 of the United Nations charter, which would compel Tehran under international law.
But the other two veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, Russia and China, have said they oppose sanctions and balked at passing the resolution under Chapter 7.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Sunday on state television that incentive proposals were "invalid" if "they want to offer us things they call incentives in return for renouncing our rights," The Associated Press reported.
The White House last week acknowledged it had received a letter from Ahmadinejad. It was the first publicly announced communication between the presidents of Iran and the United States since the break between the two countries in 1979 after Iran's Islamic revolution, during Carter's presidency.
The 18-page letter was dismissed by both the White House and the State Department, saying it failed to address the nuclear issue.
On Thursday, Ahmadinejad cast the letter as a sign his country seeks dialogue with Washington, even as he issued new condemnations of the United States and Israel during a trip to Indonesia. (Full story)
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