Iran's Ahmadinejad Reaches Out to 6 Powers but Rejects Talks on Nuclear Program

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By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, September 8, 2009

TEHRAN, Sept. 7 -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday invited representatives from a group of six world powers, including the United States, to Tehran, but he said negotiations over his country's right to a nuclear program would be off the table.

Discussion on the nuclear issue, he told reporters at a news conference, is "finished."

"We will never negotiate on the Iranian nation's obvious rights," he said, adding that Iran would not halt its uranium enrichment efforts. Ahmadinejad said Iran had prepared a proposal for breaking the deadlock on its nuclear program, and he asked diplomats to come to Tehran to pick it up.

The statement came as the head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog announced that his agency was locked in a "stalemate" with Iran. The Obama administration has offered to open talks with Iran on nuclear and other issues, and Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency said he has urged Iran "to respond positively to the recent U.S. initiative."

The United States and other world powers have said they intend to take stock of Iran's stance on nuclear talks around the time of the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, scheduled for Sept. 23-25.

There have been no diplomatic relations between Iran and the United States for three decades, so a visit by an American official to Tehran would be historic. Ahmadinejad said Iran was prepared to share with members of the "5 plus 1" group -- the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain, France and Germany -- his country's position on its nuclear program. On Wednesday, the six powers had pressed Iran to meet them for talks on the nuclear program before the General Assembly meeting.

"We made the proposal ready this week. I think we sent out the invitations to the representatives of the countries to come and receive it," Ahmadinejad said. The semiofficial Iranian Students News Agency said Iran was likely to unveil the package by the end of this week.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the United States and its partners have not received an invitation or "an official response" to the offer of talks. "Our offer to engage stands, but we are looking for a response via official channels, not the media," he said.

A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because no official communication has been received, said U.S. officials were "struck at how little new there was in the comments earlier today, particularly in light of the desires of so many Iranians for a new relationship with the rest of the world."

Iran has said its nuclear program is entirely peaceful and geared toward developing electricity. The United States and other Western nations say they believe Iran intends to weaponize the technology.

Although Ahmadinejad said Iran was not willing to discuss limits on its nuclear program, he said it was prepared for talks on the peaceful use of nuclear energy worldwide and "an effective management to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons and promote global disarmament."

In the past, Iranian officials have said they welcome U.S. participation in the 5-plus-1 talks. The Bush administration had a policy of trying to isolate Iran, but the Obama administration has said it is ready to fully engage the Islamic republic.

Ahmadinejad said he was willing to talk with President Obama in front of the world's media. "I have said this during Mr. Obama's term, and I will say it again, that we are ready to hold talks and debates on international issues with the presence of multimedia sources," Ahmadinejad said. "We think this is the best way for clarifying and resolving international issues. The era of secret movements and secret plans and secret agreements for determining the destiny of the world has come to an end."

Staff writer Glenn Kessler in Washington contributed to this report.

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