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Iran Says It's Open To Nuclear Talks Despite 'Insult'

President Ahmadinejad (in file photo) has taken a hard line on the nuclear issue 9 August 2005 -- Senior Iranian officials suggested today that they are prepared to negotiate with the European Union despite an offer from the bloc that newly inaugurated Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad described earlier in the day as "an insult" and Tehran's subsequent move to restart some nuclear-related activities in defiance of a deal with European governments.

Iran's ISNA news agency quoted President Ahmadinejad as saying he had initiatives and new propositions for fresh talks with the EU. But Ahmadinejad said recent EU offers of nuclear, commercial, and political cooperation in exchange for Iran halting its nuclear activities "an insult to the Iranian people."

Iran's decision to resume some uranium-conversion activities at its Isfahan facility prompted the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to hold an urgent meeting today to discuss Tehran's decision.

"We are also prepared to continue negotiations with the EU-3 [Britain, France, Germany] and the EU," Iran's chief delegate to the IAEA, Sirus Naseri, told journalists today in Vienna. "We will do so as long as they are no preconditions and there is good faith."

Mohammad Saidi, the deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said today that the IAEA told Tehran it would remove the seals at a section of Isfahan nuclear facility before tomorrow afternoon.

Western Reaction

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said today that it was for the IAEA to decide whether the Iranian nuclear issue should be brought to the UN Security Council.

"If the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency should decide that it has to go to the Security Council and naturally counteractive measures should be discussed there, the overriding goal has to be that we solve this very difficult and worrying conflict peacefully," Schroeder said. "An escalation doesn't serve anyone either economically or politically."

U.S. President George W. Bush responded to Iran's announcement that it was resuming some activities by saying he was deeply suspicious of Tehran's nuclear ambitions but hoped the country's new president was willing to talk.

Bush said Iran's offer to continue negotiations with the EU are positive, but he warned that UN sanctions were a possible consequence if Tehran did not cooperate.

Related RFE/RL item:

"Iran's New President Vows To Resist Foreign Pressure"