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Iran Signals No Nuclear Talks With World Powers

Ali Asghar Soltanieh

Ali Asghar Soltanieh

TEHRAN (Reuters) -- A senior Iranian official has been quoted by a state-run television website as suggesting any talks with world powers would not address the Islamic republic's nuclear program.

The comments by Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, were published a day after world powers pressed Iran to meet them for talks on the nuclear dispute before a UN General Assembly meeting this month.

"It is wrong to think that possible talks with [the six world powers] would be about Iran's nuclear program," Soltanieh was quoted as saying by the website of Al-Alam, a state-run television station.

"Iran's nuclear issue can only be examined at the International Atomic Energy Agency," he said.

Al-Alam, an Arabic-language service, said Soltanieh made the comments in an interview late on September 2.

Soltanieh said Tehran "was always ready to cooperate" with the UN nuclear watchdog agency to remove any doubts about its nuclear program, which Tehran says is for peaceful power generation but which the West suspects is aimed at making bombs.

Iran, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, has repeatedly rejected demands to halt or freeze expansion of uranium enrichment, which can have both civilian and military purposes.

Citing Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Sad Jalili, Soltanieh said that "international cooperation, energy security, and global disarmament" were among international and regional topics that could be raised in discussions with the world powers.

Jalili was quoted by state television on September 1 as saying Iran was ready to talk to world powers and that Tehran had prepared "an updated nuclear proposal."

On September 2, Germany hosted a meeting of senior officials of Russia, China, the United States, France, and Britain to discuss Iran's nuclear program.

"With reference to Dr. Jalili's statement this week that Iran is ready to resume talks, I expect Iran to respond to the offer of talks [made] in April by agreeing to meet before [the UN General Assembly]," Volker Stanzel, political director in the German Foreign Ministry, said after the meeting.

A senior European official said the powers wanted such a meeting within about two weeks. There was disappointment that there had been no movement on the issue since April, he said.

The UN General Assembly meeting is on September 23-25.