The United States is prepared to hold direct talks with Iran in the standoff over its nuclear ambitions, Vice President Joe Biden said Saturday — but he insisted that Tehran must show it is serious and Washington won’t engage in such talks “just for the exercise.”

Washington has indicated in the past that it’s prepared to talk directly with Iran, and talks involving all five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany have made little headway. Several rounds of internationoal sanctions have cut into Iran’s oil sales and financial transactions.

Last month Iran, in a defiant move ahead of a new round of talks expected soon with the six powers, announced plans to vastly increase its pace of uranium enrichment. That can be used to make both reactor fuel and the fissile core of warheads.

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