U.S. Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns says he does "not believe a conflict with Iran is inevitable," and "it is certainly not desirable":
"Our view is that we should try to avoid a [military] conflict with Iran. We should use other methods, diplomacy, economic coercion, sanctions from the [U-N] Security Council, financial measures, to try to convince the Iranians that there is another way forward and to raise the cost to the Iranians of their present behavior."
Mr. Burns says that the offer the United States made to the Iranian government in May 2006 –- to directly join negotiations with Iran if it suspends uranium enrichment activities –- was "an extraordinarily important offer" that is "still on the table":
"I am surprised when I read in the press that the United States will not talk to Iran. We are trying to talk to the Iranians. The Secretary of State – Secretary Rice – said again about a month ago. . . . she said, 'I want to make it clear, if the Iranians accept this offer to negotiate on the nuclear issue. . . Condoleezza Rice will be at those negotiations.'"
Mr. Burns says that Secretary of State Rice made it clear that those negotiations would also be an opportunity to talk about "other issues in the relationship" between the U.S. and Iran:
"So there is an exit door for the Iranians from their isolation; there is a way out for them diplomatically. By the way, it is the same offer being made in conjunction with China, Russia, and the Europeans, backed up by the other great powers of the world."
White House spokesman Tony Snow says that the leaders of Iran have only "a simple step to take" that would reap benefits for their country and the Iranian people.