June 1, 2006

Iran says it’s ready to talk

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran will not give up what it calls its
right to enrich uranium, as demanded by the West, but is ready
to hold talks with the United States, Foreign Minister
Manouchehr Mottaki said on Thursday.

"We will not give up our nation's natural right (to
enrichment), we will not hold talks over it. But we are ready
to hold talks over mutual concerns," Mottaki said in response
to a U.S. offer of talks if Iran suspended enrichment

"Iran supports fair talks without discrimination," he said,
but added that Washington had to change its behavior if it
wanted new relations with Iran.

In a major policy shift, the United States said on
Wednesday that it would join European governments in direct
nuclear talks with Iran if it suspends its uranium enrichment,
which Western powers believe is aimed at developing an atomic

The offer was announced by U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice before major powers were to meet on Thursday
in Vienna to discuss Iran's nuclear activities.

"Rice's statement was not something new. This is what was
said in her previous speeches and interviews. It lacked a
logical and new solution to resolve Iran's nuclear issue,"
Mottaki said in Iran's first official reaction.

"It (Rice's announcement) was like a piece of literature
and ... was aimed at covering up their failure in Iraq and
other parts of the world," he said.

Iran, the world's fourth largest oil exporter, says its
atomic aims are civilian and that it only wants to generate

Direct talks with Tehran on the nuclear dispute would mark
a big change in U.S. relations with Iran following a break in
formal diplomatic ties after the 1979 Islamic revolution and
the hostage-taking of 52 Americans in the U.S. embassy for 444

Tehran has previously said it was willing to negotiate on
the number of uranium-enriching centrifuges it uses for
research, but has stressed it would not stop running the
devices entirely as the U.N. Security Council has called for.