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Amid Tough Words, Iranian And U.S. Presidents Back More Nuclear Talks --> The Isfahan nuclear facility (file photo) Washington, 9 August 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The presidents of the United States and Iran have delivered tough messages in connection with Tehran's resumption of some nuclear activities. But Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad also expressed willingness to continue talks with European negotiators, a move that U.S. President George W. Bush called a "positive sign." They spoke as the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) discussed ways to respond to Iran's latest steps.

President Bush said he is deeply suspicious of Iran's nuclear ambitions and suggesed that the country could still face UN sanctions.

Bush told reporters at his summer residence in Texas today that he was heartened by the response from the three lead European negotiating states -- France, Germany, and Britain -- denouncing Iran's move to revive nuclear activities.

But Bush also welcomed fresh reports that new Iranian President Ahmadinejad has indicated his willingness to continue talks and has some new proposals.

"If he did say that, I think that's a positive sign that the Iranians are getting a message that it's not just the United States that is worried about their nuclear programs but the Europeans are serious in calling the Iranians to account and negotiating," Bush said.

Iran yesterday started converting raw uranium into gas at a facility near Isfahan. It is the beginning of a process that can lead to making nuclear fuel, or weapons, if enriched to high levels.

Ahmadinejad said today that his country had done nothing unlawful by resuming uranium conversion. He also said that an aid offer from the EU-3 that hinged on Tehran halting its nuclear activities was "an insult."

Ahmadinejad said he would put forward new ideas for resolving the crisis after he formed his cabinet.

Iran's chief delegate to the IAEA, Sirus Naseri, sought to explain Iran's actions to journalists in Vienna today.

"The move to resume [some uranium-conversion activities] in Isfahan was absolutely not aimed as a move to intimidate our partners or a move towards provocation," Naseri said. "It was a move out of despair and disappointment in the Europeans' will and intention to come to an agreement with us."

Despite Iran's rejection of the EU proposal, U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said Washington wants Iran to continue talks on the basis of that proposal while maintaining suspension of nuclear activity.

The board of the IAEA began an urgent session today to discuss Iran's resumed uranium-conversion activities. Ereli said U.S. officials expect the board tomorrow to approve a resolution in response to Iran's moves.

"We are working with the Europeans, working with the other members of the board of governors to fashion a response that fully reflects the concerns of the international community, sends a strong message about the importance of reestablishing suspension on uranium conversion and on fully cooperating with the IAEA, and has the best chance of producing that result," Ereli said.

The deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammad Saidi, said today that the IAEA will remove seals at the Isfahan facility tomorrow, now that surveillance cameras have been installed.

Related RFE/RL analysis:

"Iran: Nuclear Decision-Making Undergoes Changes"