Tehran says it welcomes nuclear talks with the West
TEHRAN - Iran welcomes nuclear talks with the United States and other countries, Tehran's top nuclear negotiator said yesterday.
The negotiator, Saeed Jalili, made the comments during a telephone call with the European Union's foreign policy chief, state television reported. During the conversation, Jalili said the talks should be aimed at "constructive cooperation" between countries.
Last week, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran was open to talks - but only if they were based on respect for Iran's rights, suggesting the West should not try to force Tehran to stop uranium enrichment. Jalili's comments appeared to be more of a definitive answer, but he stressed that Iran would issue an official response to the invitation soon, the TV reported. He did not elaborate.
The United States announced last week that it would join direct talks with Iran that Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia are seeking to convene. The talks aim to break a long deadlock over Iran's nuclear program, which the United States and its allies fear aims to build atomic weapons. Iran denies the charge.
"Of course, we welcome the fact that they're interested in having a dialogue," said State Department spokesman Robert Wood. "Iran needs to show the international community that its nuclear program is a peaceful one. Right now, the international community is very skeptical."
Ahmadinejad said Thursday that Iran would present a new proposal for negotiations, saying "conditions have changed" - an apparent reference to President Obama's election and Iran's own progress in its nuclear program since previous talks with Iran were held last year. He didn't elaborate on the proposal.