US Vice President Joe Biden is set to have talks with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, a day after promising a "new tone" in foreign policy and calling for renewed co-operation with Moscow.
"I come to Europe on behalf of a new administration determined to set a new tone not only in Washington, but in America's relations around the world," he said in a major foreign policy address at the Munich Security Conference.
He said that it was time to "reset the button" on Washington's frosty ties with Moscow, and that the US was willing to talk with the "great people" of Iran after three decades of frozen relations.
But speaking on his first trip abroad since taking office along with President Obama on January 20, Biden said that US allies must also lift their game.
"America will do more, but America will ask for more from our partners.
"As we seek a lasting framework for our common struggle against extremism, we will have to work cooperatively with nations around the world -- and we will need your help," Biden said.
As an example, Biden said the United States would ask other countries to take in inmates from Guantanamo, predecessor George W. Bush's "war on terror" prison which Obama has said he will close.
Biden's comments were made at a conference with top power brokers from around the world, including from Russia and Iran, focusing on hot-button security issues for the 21st century.
These include Iran's disputed nuclear programme, US plans for elements of a missile defence shield on Russia's doorstep and the raging Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.
Other talking points included nuclear disarmament, the Middle East, the future of the NATO military alliance 20 years after the end of the Cold War, energy security and Iraq.
Obama sent other big guns to Munich too: national security advisor General James Jones, special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke and General David Petraeus, US commander in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The new president has said that he will offer arch-foe Iran an extended hand of diplomacy if the Islamic Republic's leaders "unclenched their fist," but Biden said that Tehran must abandon efforts to developing the bomb.
"We will be willing to talk to Iran, and to offer a very clear choice: continue down the current course and there will be continued pressure and isolation; abandon the illicit nuclear programme and your support for terrorism and there will be meaningful incentives," he said.
Also attending the conference was Ali Larijani, Iran's parliamentary speaker and former chief nuclear negotiator. Before coming to Munich however, Larijani said there would be no face-to-face meeting with Biden.
The West's relations with Moscow, another crucial issue, hit lows not seen since the Cold War under Bush and Vladimir Putin, Russia's former president turned prime minister.
Russia was angered by Washington's plans to put interceptors and radars in Poland and the Czech Republic that Bush said would detect and shoot down incoming missiles from "rogue states" like Iran.
Ties have been made even frostier by the prospect of NATO expansion, Russia's short war with Georgia in August and Western accusations that Moscow uses its hydrocarbon superpower status as a weapon in foreign relations.
Biden announced on Saturday that the United States -- reeling from its worst recession in decades -- would press ahead with the shield only if it can be proved that the technology works and is cost effective.
"We will do so in consultation with you, our NATO allies, and with Russia," Biden said. "It is time to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should work together."
He also signalled that the Obama team was ready to consider Russian demands in negotiations -- stalled under Bush -- to renew START, a key Cold War-era nuclear disarmament treaty set to expire in December.
Russia's NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin said Biden's speech "contained many hints and associations from which one can conclude that it is possible to expect some new accents in US foreign policy on the irritants in Russian-US relations, including missile defence."
Date created : 2009-02-08