Iran and European Union reach formula for nuclear talks
Iran and the European Union on Monday agreed to resume talks over Iran's controversial nuclear program, which for the first time could involve direct negotiations with the United States.
During a telephone conversation between Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saaid Jalili and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, the two sides agreed to pursue talks between Tehran and the so-called P5+1 group, state television network IRIB reported.
The group consists of the five permanent United Nations Security Council members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - plus Germany. There was no word on the date or venue of a new round of negotiations.
State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the U.S. remained "very skeptical" of Iran's true intentions over its nuclear program but added: "We welcome the fact that they're, you know, interested in having a dialogue."
U.S. President Barack Obama has made some efforts to reach out to itslong-time foe over the last month. The US last week said it was ready to take a direct part in the talks with Iran in a reversal of the policy of former president George W Bush.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday declared his readiness to join nuclear talks with the United States, but once again rejected the main demand by the international community to suspend uranium enrichment.
Ahmadinejad said Iran would not make any concessions on its nuclear rights, saying as it has followed Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regulations.
The West believes Iran is aiming to build a nuclear weapon, which the Islamic regime strenuously denies. The UN Security Council has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Iran over its failure to halt uranium enrichment.
"We encourage Iran to come forward and provide the international community with all of the assurances that it requires to be convinced that Iran is pursuing a peaceful nuclear programme," Wood said. There was still a "substantive package of incentives" on the table should Tehran halt enrichment, he added.
Iran's Atomic Energy Organization claimed last week that the country had added 1,000 more nuclear centrifuges to its uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, central Iran, about 1,500 more than UN nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency reported just six weeks ago.
Ahmadinejad however reacted positively to the call by Obama for a world without nuclear weapons and an immediate end to nuclear testing, saying that Tehran would even be ready to do its share.