TEHRAN, Iran, AP-Iran’s foreign minister on Thursday welcomed direct talks with Washington on his country’s disputed nuclear program but rebuffed a U.S. proposal that Tehran must suspend uranium enrichment as a condition, state-run television reported.
“Iran welcomes dialogue under just conditions but (we) won’t give up our (nuclear) rights,” the television quoted Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki as saying.
“We won’t negotiate about the Iranian nation’s natural nuclear rights but we are prepared, within a defined, just framework and without any discrimination, to hold dialogue about (our) common concerns,” he added.
Mottaki’s statement was the country’s first direct reaction to an announcement by the United States on Wednesday that it is willing to join other countries for face-to-face talks with Iran, as long as Tehran stops enriching uranium.
“Our message to the Iranians is that one, you won’t have a weapon, and two, that you must verifiably suspend any programs at which point we will come to the negotiating table to work on a way forward,” President Bush said Wednesday.
“I thought it was important for the United States to take the lead — along with our partners,” Bush said. “And that’s what you’re seeing. You’re seeing robust diplomacy. I believe this problem can be solved diplomatically and I’m going to give it every effort to do so.”
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said at the State Department the United States will come to the negotiating table as soon as Iran fully and verifiably suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities. She said the United States was taking the move to underscore its commitment to a diplomatic solution and to enhance prospects for success.
Mottaki said Iran has no intention to halt its uranium enrichment program.
“There is no evidence proving Iran’s diversion (toward nuclear weapons). Therefore, Iran is interested in continuing this path,” he said.