TEHRAN, April 16 (Reuters) – Iran is ready for negotiations
on nuclear and other issues provided such talks do not violate
the country’s rights, the president said on Wednesday.
But Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, showing uncharacteristic restraint, told a rally he would not address Iran’s nuclear row with the West in detail and would save his comments for another occasion.
The president, who usually launches into defiant remarks over Iran’s nuclear plans at such gatherings, did not explain his reticence but it came the day world powers met to discuss the atomic issue in China, a country Iran has been courting.
The meeting of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — plus Germany and an EU representative is being hosted by Beijing for the first time.
China has kept out of the spotlight in the nuclear row with Iran, one of Beijing’s major oil suppliers and where Chinese energy firms have been investing. Beijing often calls for more talks, rather than sanctions, to defuse the dispute. “The Iranian nation is after talks and negotiations but negotiations in a logical and just framework and in line with the fundamental rights of nations,” Ahmadinejad said in his speech broadcast on state television, adding that Iran would not retreat from its rights “one iota”. But he said in his speech in the city of Qom, south of the capital: “I had intended to speak about the nuclear issue but I will leave that for another time.” He did not elaborate.
Ahmadinejad has often been criticised by his opponents in Iran for fuelling the dispute with the West by using uncompromising rhetoric instead of pursuing more diplomacy.
The U.N. Security Council has slapped three rounds of sanctions on Iran for not heeding demands to halt uranium enrichment, work the West says Iran wants to master so it can build nuclear bombs. Iran says it wants to generate electricity.
The meeting in Shanghai is at a tier below minister level and discussions were expected on whether to sweeten a 2006 offer of incentives to persuade Iran to curb its nuclear programme, a Western diplomat told Reuters earlier.
The six powers offered civil nuclear cooperation and wider trade in civil aircraft, energy, technology and farming, if Iran suspended uranium enrichment and negotiated with them. Iran has said it will talk but will never give up its nuclear plans.
Sitting behind Ahmadinejad as he spoke on a podium was Ali Larijani, Iran’s former top nuclear negotiator who quit his post last year citing differences with the president about how to handle the nuclear file.
Larijani won a Qom parliamentary seat in the March election.
Analysts say Ahmadinejad’s core support was cut in that vote and say the new assembly, still dominated by conservatives, may prove more critical of the president though mainly objecting to his economic management rather than his nuclear stance.
Nuclear policy is ultimately determined by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei under Iran’s system of clerical rule. He has praised Ahmadinejad’s handling of the atomic file.