I am pleased that the Administration has decided to embark on a new and more concerted effort to engage with Iran over its nuclear program. Secretary Rice's offer can only be seen as an acknowledgment by the President that diplomacy is the only way to solve this crisis. Today's announcement that the U.S., the EU-3, Russia and China have crafted a package of incentives and consequences for Iran is further evidence that the Administration has decided that direct US involvement in the negotiations is the surest path to a peaceful resolution to the standoff.

The recent letter from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to President Bush was clearly an attempt to open a dialogue with Washington - as well as relieve the pressure of possible U.N. action - and the knee-jerk rejection by the Iranian foreign ministry of yesterday's offer is almost certain to be modified in coming days. As we move forward in this process we need to remain mindful that Iran's government is not monolithic and that it is broadly unpopular with its own people. We should be prepared to leverage the regime's unpopularity to build support for a negotiated end to Iran's nuclear weapons aspiration.