TEHRAN, (Reuters) – Iran favours dialogue with world powers over its nuclear programme and will soon give its official response to an invitation for talks, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in remarks published on Friday.
It was the latest signal from Tehran that it will accept the offer of discussions with the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain. Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator on Monday said Tehran would welcome “constructive” dialogue.
The six powers said last week they would ask European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana to invite Iran to a meeting to find “a diplomatic solution to this critical issue”, referring to the long-running nuclear row.
It marked a significant shift in U.S. policy under President Barack Obama, whose predecessor George W. Bush shunned direct talks with Iran as long as it pressed ahead with uranium enrichment that the West fears is meant to yield atomic bombs.
Asked about the invitation, Ahmadinejad said Iran’s response “will soon be given in a statement,” the semi-official Fars News Agency reported.
“However, we’re inclined to dialogue and in this statement the framework of the talks and Iran’s position will be announced,” Ahmadinejad said in a meeting on Thursday evening with Iranians living abroad, Fars reported.
Ahmadinejad on Wednesday said Iran had prepared proposals to end the stalemate over its nuclear ambitions, without giving details. It was unclear whether Iran’s counter-offer would be essentially different from previous ill-fated exchanges.
The Islamic Republic has repeatedly ruled out halting uranium enrichment, which can have both civilian and military uses. Tehran says its activities are aimed at producing electricity so that it can export more of its gas and oil.
The six world powers originally offered Iran economic and political incentives in 2006 to suspend enrichment. Iran’s response hinted at some flexibility but ruled out suspension as a precondition for talks as stipulated by the powers.
Last June the six improved the offer while retaining the precondition. In reply, Iran said it wanted to negotiate a broader peace and security deal and rejected any “condescending” formula to shelve its nuclear programme.
Western officials at the time felt Iran, by side-stepping the suspension issue, was trying to buy time to expand and make irreversible its nuclear programme.
The Obama administration has said it is prepared to meet Iran without preconditions, but it has also made clear that suspension of enrichment remains the goal.
An Iranian official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters on Wednesday that “suspension is out of the question” but that Iran did want to get talks rolling with major powers.