By Associated Press - Monday, April 13, 2009

TEHRAN (AP) Iran welcomes nuclear talks with the United States and other countries, Tehran’s top nuclear negotiator said Monday.

The negotiator, Saeed Jalili, made the comments during a telephone call with the European Union’s foreign policy chief, state television reported. During the conversation, Jalili said the talks should be aimed at “constructive cooperation” between countries.

Last week, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran was open to talks _ but only if they were based on respect for Iran’s rights, suggesting the West should not try to force Tehran to stop uranium enrichment. Jalili’s comments appeared to be more of a definitive answer, but he stressed that Iran would issue an official response to the invitation soon, the TV reported. He did not elaborate.

The United States announced last week that it would join direct talks with Iran that Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia are seeking to convene. The talks aim to break a long deadlock over Iran’s nuclear program, which the U.S. and its allies fear aims to build atomic weapons. Iran denies the charge.

“Of course, we welcome the fact that they’re interested in having a dialogue,” said State Department spokesman, Robert Wood. “Iran needs to show the international community that its nuclear program is a peaceful one. Right now, the international community is very skeptical about that.”

Ahmadinejad said Thursday that Iran would present a new proposal for negotiations, saying “conditions have changed” _ an apparent reference to President Barack Obama’s election and Iran’s own progress in its nuclear program since previous talks with Iran were held last year. He didn’t elaborate on the proposal.

Jalili also insisted in his conversation with Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, that the all parties involved in the talks should have the “right understanding of international developments and realities,” the TV reported.

Ahmadinejad announced on Saturday that Iran now controls the entire cycle for producing nuclear fuel. The step was significant toward furthering Iran’s nuclear energy capabilities and could be designed to strengthen Iran’s position at a time when the Obama administration has said it would negotiate with the Iran over it nuclear program.


Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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