Tehran: Iran will not discuss its nuclear program at talks with global powers, an adviser to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday, adding fresh doubt to the chances of a negotiated end to its stand-off with the West.
Iran said on Friday it was ready to resume talks which stalled more than a year ago and led to tightened sanctions against the Islamic Republic which many countries fear is seeking nuclear weapons, something it denies.
Both sides have said the talks could happen after November 10, but Ali Akbar Javanfekr, a media adviser to the president, said they would not cover the nuclear issue -- the one subject the other countries want to address.
"We will not be talking with the Western party about the nuclear energy issue in this round of the negotiations," Javanfekr said, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
The P5+1 group -- the permanent members of the UN Security Council: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. plus Germany -- want Iran to suspend uranium enrichment which can have both civilian and military uses, in exchange for trade and diplomatic benefits on offer since 2006.
Iran says its nuclear ambitions are purely peaceful and denies it is seeking nuclear arms, but it has refused to accept demands from the UN Security Council to halt enrichment and has been subjected to tightened sanctions since June aimed at getting it to comply.
Skeptics accuse Iran of stalling talks while it continues to stockpile nuclear material. Iran insists it has a right to enrichment under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Javanfekr said the P5+1 countries had yet to address Ahmadinejad`s conditions for resuming talks. He did not say what the talks would cover if they do not address the nuclear issue.
Friends and enemies
In a television interview on Saturday night, Ahmadinejad reiterated his position that the other parties should say whether they come to the table as Iran`s friends.
"From the very beginning we told them that they have no option but negotiating with Iran. But it should be based on justice," he said on state-run TV.
"(We ask) on the basis of what framework are you going to negotiate? Is it based on justice and respect? But they do not dare announce it yet."
Ahmadinejad has also asked the parties to declare their opinion on Israel`s alleged nuclear arsenal. Israel says a nuclear-armed Iran would threaten its very existence and does not rule out striking Iran militarily to stop that happening.
Ahmadinejad said talks could happen even if Iran was not satisfied with the responses, but that: "We will negotiate one way with friends, another way with enemies." He did not specify whether that meant Iran would enter negotiations but refuse to address the nuclear issue.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast remained optimistic that the talks -- which EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton proposed holding in Vienna from November 15 to 17 -- would still happen.
"The contacts and consultations are under way and we are hopeful we will reach agreement over the details for the talks including the time, place and the content of the negotiation," he was quoted as saying by Fars.
Tehran has appeared keener on resuming talks on a stalled plan for it to send low-enriched uranium abroad and receive higher-grade fuel for a medical research reactor in return.
Western diplomats say that, even if the fuel exchange idea were revived, it would not resolve farther-reaching concerns about Iran`s nuclear plans which it must also agree to discuss.
The US State Department said this week Washington and EU nations were preparing a new offer to Iran on a swap that would include tougher conditions than those Tehran rejected last year.