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Rohani Says Iran Ready For 'Serious' Nuclear Talks

Iranian President Hassan Rohani addresses his first news conference on August 6.
Iran's President Hassan Rohani says his country is ready to engage in "serious negotiations" with Western nations over the country's disputed nuclear program.

Rohani was speaking in Tehran in his first news conference since officially taking office.

"We are ready, in all seriousness and without wasting time, to engage in serious negotiations," he said. "If the other side is also serious, I'm confident that through dialogue the concerns of both sides will be removed in the near future."

Rohani, a relative moderate, added that "constructive interaction" could lead to a "win-win" in the nuclear standoff between Tehran and the West.

Hopes for a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear issue have risen with Rohani's election win over hard-line rivals in the June presidential vote.

The United States has said it would be a "willing partner" if Tehran was serious about finding a peaceful solution to the nuclear issue.

But Rohani said Washington had so far sent "mixed signals" to Tehran and that recent sanctions against Iran were counterproductive.

Rohani said "recent declarations from the White House show that some U.S. officials do not have a correct and realistic assessment of the situation here and the message that the Iranian people gave in the election."

Rohani said only diplomacy would resolve the deadlock in talks.

"Dialogue should start with talks, not threats," he said. "The other side should understand that the only solution is through talks, and threats will only create more problems. If someone thinks they can impose their demands on Iran through threats, they are deeply mistaken."

Russia backed the new Iranian president's call for fresh negotiations. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying at a news conference in Rome, "It's extremely important to support such an attitude from the Iranian leadership."

Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the six world powers in the nuclear talks with Iran, wrote in a letter to Rohani on August 6 that she hoped a new round of talks could be scheduled as soon as possible.

Despite his calls for serious dialogue, Rohani said Iran would not budge from its right to peaceful use of nuclear energy that it claims under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

"Iran's peaceful nuclear program is a national issue. ... We will not give up the rights of the Iranian people," he said.

He also said Iran would not give up uranium enrichment.

In a message congratulating Rohani on his inauguration, the White House said it "presents an opportunity for Iran to act quickly to resolve the international community's deep concerns over Iran's nuclear program."

The West suspects that Iran's nuclear program is designed to build nuclear weapons -- a charge Tehran vehemently denies.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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