Iran officials seek unconditional talks

June 04, 2006|By CHICAGO TRIBUNE

TEHRAN, Iran -- Days after the United States opened the possibility of talks with Iran over its nuclear program, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad indicated yesterday that he was looking for a "breakthrough" in negotiations, but only if the talks were unconditional.

Ahmadinejad's statement came as a top deputy at Iran's Supreme National Security Council outlined in an interview the reasons that Iran wants a nuclear energy program and is looking for compromise with Western powers intent on hindering the effort.

Both men's remarks appeared to be part of an orchestrated effort by Iranian officials to keep open the possibility of talks with the U.S. Ahmadinejad's comments were made on state-run television and reportedly in a phone conversation with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

In his televised speech, Ahmadinejad reiterated that he is not prepared to abandon the nuclear program to begin the talks.

"We are after negotiations, but fair and just negotiations. They must be without any conditions," he said.

The U.S. has offered to join the direct talks only if Iran suspends its nuclear activity. Iran insists that it is pursuing peaceful objectives; Western powers suspect that Iran wants to develop weapons.

Javad Vaeidi, a top deputy at Iran's Supreme National Security Council, spoke emphatically during an interview yesterday about Iran's interest in peaceful energy.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki also told reporters that European Union foreign-policy chief Javier Solana would deliver in the next few days a package of proposals designed to win Iranian cooperation. The five members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany came up with the package Thursday. It includes incentives and possible punishments if Iran refuses.

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