- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 8, 2006

2:05 p.m.

TEHRAN — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today that Iran was ready to discuss “mutual concerns” over his country’s nuclear program, but he refused to first suspend uranium enrichment.

His comments came a day after world powers backed off a demand that Iran commit to a prolonged moratorium on uranium enrichment, asking only for a suspension during talks on its nuclear program. Mr. Ahmadinejad did not say whether he accepted the proposal, part of a package of incentives in exchange for Iran suspending enrichment.

Meanwhile, a report by the U.N. nuclear agency made available today said Iran has slowed its nuclear enrichment work during the past month but continues experimenting with the technology that world powers fear might be misused to make nuclear arms.

The confidential report circulated among the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35 member nations also indicated that nuclear inspectors have made little progress on clearing up other worrying aspects of Tehran’s past nuclear activity.

Specifically, the three-page report said Iran still had declined to answer requests to clarify Mr. Ahmadinejad’s statements that his country had experimented with advanced centrifuges that speed up enrichment [-] a process that can produce fuel for electricity-generating reactors or, if sufficiently processed, the fissile core for a warhead.

The United States agreed last week to join France, Britain and Germany in talks with Iran. If the talks occur, it would be the first major public negotiations between Washington and Tehran in more than 25 years.

However, Mr. Ahmadinejad insisted Iran would never give up its right under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to produce nuclear fuel.

“On behalf of the Iranian nation, I’m announcing that the Iranian nation will never hold negotiations about its definite rights with anybody, but we are for talks about mutual concerns to resolve misunderstandings in the international arena,” Mr. Ahmadinejad told thousands of people in Qazvin, west of the capital, Tehran.

“Negotiations should be held in a fair atmosphere and on the basis of equality. If they think they can threaten and hold a stick over Iran’s head and offer negotiations at the same time, they should know the Iranian nation will definitely reject such an atmosphere.”

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, has said the incentives package included both “positive steps” and “ambiguities that need to be cleared up.” Tehran has said it will announce its position after carefully studying the package.

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