Biden set for first major speech

New US Vice-President Joe Biden is expected to outline the Obama government’s foreign policy at a Munich conference.

Mr Biden will address a security forum in Munich, with Iraq and Afghanistan likely to be high on the agenda.   He will also meet Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, amid cool relations between the two nations.  

Iranian delegate Ali Larijani welcomed the new US government, saying it was a “golden opportunity” to improve ties.   

But Mr Larijani, who is Iran’s parliamentary speaker, warned it would take more than a change of tone and a few interviews from President Barack Obama’s government to mend the fractured relationship between Tehran and Washington.

“The old carrot and stick policy must be discarded,” he said, referring to Western threats and offers of rewards to coax Iran to give up nuclear activities.

He said the US needed to change its tactics “to a chess game from a boxing match”.

The BBC’s defence correspondent, Rob Watson, at the conference, says Mr Larijani’s comments are a sign that any efforts at reconciliation with Iran will be difficult and complex.

War backing

The meeting with Mr Ivanov is also expected to be a challenging one.

Analysts have portrayed Kyrgyzstan’s decision this week to close the last remaining US air base in Central Asia as being the work of the Kremlin.

And speaking before the conference, Mr Ivanov focused his attention on the controversial plans drawn up by the Bush administration for a missile defence shield in Central Europe.

“President Medvedev from the very start said very clearly and unequivocally that if there are no interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic… there will be no [Russian Iskander missiles] in Kaliningrad,” he said.

Mr Obama has already said he intends to make Afghanistan a priority, and Mr Biden is expected to ask European governments for more help with the war effort.

Among other leaders Mr Biden is set to meet at the Munich conference are German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

On Sunday, he will see President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, who received US backing in its brief conflict with Russia last year.



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