Iran's Top Nuclear Negotiator Says Tehran Is Ready to Reopen Talks With West

By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, September 2, 2009

TEHRAN, Sept. 1 -- Iran's top nuclear negotiator said Tuesday that the country is ready to reopen talks with world powers increasingly concerned about Iranian intentions, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.

The announcement by Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili came a day before a meeting in Germany of representatives from six nations, including the United States, that are seeking to develop a strategy for addressing Iran's nuclear ambitions.

"Iran has prepared to present its revised package of proposals . . . and is ready to hold talks with world powers . . . in order to ease common concerns in the international arena," state television quoted Jalili as telling reporters.

Iranian officials did not comment on whether the timing of the proposal is connected to the Sept. 15 deadline set by the White House for Iran to respond to an offer to reopen talks on the nuclear issue.

U.S. officials say Iran has responded to previous offers only with vague generalities that did not provide a basis for negotiations, and President Obama has suggested that if Iran does not make a serious counteroffer by the end of this year, it could face renewed sanctions. U.S. officials said Tuesday that they would reserve judgment until they receive an official communication from Iran.

"We're prepared to respond to some kind of meaningful response," said Ian Kelly, a spokesman for the State Department. "We're not going to respond to something that's made through the media."

Hassan Qashqavi, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said sanctions would not be effective. "Using the worthless and ineffectual tool of sanctions will not have any effect on Iran's lawful pursuit of its legal rights," he said, emphasizing that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful and is meant to generate energy. U.S. officials have said that they think Iran is seeking to weaponize its nuclear program.

Iran continues to enrich uranium, though the rate has slowed in recent months, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report issued last week. The enrichment is a violation of four rounds of U.N. sanctions.

Also in Iran on Tuesday, members of parliament demonstrated strong support for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nominee for defense minister, Ahmad Vahidi, who is wanted by Argentina on suspicion of a role in the bombing of a Jewish community center in 1994. The attack killed 85 people.

The parliament is expected to vote on Ahmadinejad's cabinet picks as early as Wednesday.

Staff writer Glenn Kessler in Washington contributed to this report.

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