Iran ready for new round of nuclear talks: Top negotiator

Iran is ready for fresh talks with world powers over its controversial nuclear programme after having updated a package of proposals linked to it, Tehran`s top nuclear negotiator said on Tuesday.

Tehran: Iran is ready for fresh talks with world powers over its controversial nuclear programme after having updated a package of proposals linked to it, Tehran`s top nuclear negotiator said on Tuesday.

"The Islamic republic`s package of proposals is updated and ready and will be presented (to world powers)," Saeed Jalili, also secretary of the country`s Supreme National Security Council, told reporters.

"We hope a new round of talks will be held," Jalili said. "We think we can form talks and new co-operations for peace, justice and development in the world."

He said without elaborating that the package would be directed at the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany.

The so-called P5+1 are to meet near Frankfurt on Wednesday to look into harsher UN sanctions against Iran.

The United States, which has led international efforts to thwart Iran`s nuclear drive, has given Iran until this month to take up the offer of talks or face tougher sanctions.

The White House said on Tuesday it had received no official notification from Iran on a new package.

"We have seen the reports, though we have not heard anything conclusively from the Iranians on that," spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

"It has always been our hope and goal that the Iranians will live up to their international obligations and give up their nuclear weapons programme," Gibbs said.

Western powers fear Iran`s nuclear programme will be used to make weapons -- a charge Tehran vehemently denies.

Gibbs noted that the P5+1 had made an offer in April, which had still received no response.

At the time, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he would offer an updated version of a year-old proposal for talks after the powers called for a resumption of the negotiations, which had stalled in September 2008.

Jalili said Iran`s "revised" package takes into account last year`s global developments, including the economic recession and the Georgian crisis.

"Iran, using its strength and national and regional capacities is ready to cooperate in order to alleviate common international concerns," he said.

A May 2008 proposal by Iran offered to negotiate without preconditions on issues including the nuclear programme, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and cooperation to combat terrorism and drugs.
Jalili said on Tuesday that Iran, after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad`s June 12 re-election, was equipped with "suitable power" and "strong" popular support to make a new proposal.

His announcement comes a day after French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned of further sanctions against Iran if it failed to negotiate.

"It is important that a clear statement comes from Iran on whether they are interested in talks, on whether they accept the offers of the international community," Merkel said.

"If that is not the case then we will of course have to discuss in September, including in Pittsburgh (at the G20 summit on September 24-25), further sanctions."

On Tuesday, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi denounced those comments, saying in a statement that "sanctions will not deter Iran from pursuing its legitimate rights."

He also denounced as "unacceptable" a remark by Sarkozy that Iran`s people deserve better leaders than the ones they have.

Sarkozy had said "the people of Iran deserve better than their current leaders. I want to say how much we admire the courage of the Iranian people."

The IAEA said in a study obtained by AFP that Iran has slowed production of enriched uranium and agreed to tighter monitoring of its enrichment plant.

Tehran has also granted UN inspectors access to a research reactor long out of bounds, the restricted report revealed.

Iran welcomed the IAEA report but vowed to continue enrichment -- the process which can be used to make nuclear fuel, but can also yield the fissile material for an atomic bomb.

In an interview published on Tuesday, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei called the threat from Iran "hyped" and that there was no evidence that Tehran will soon have nuclear weapons.

"In many ways, I think the threat has been hyped," he told the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a Chicago-based magazine critical of nuclear weapons.

"Yes, there`s concern about Iran`s future intentions and Iran needs to be more transparent with the IAEA and international community.

"But the idea that we`ll wake up tomorrow and Iran will have a nuclear weapon is an idea that isn`t supported by the facts as we have seen them so far."

Bureau Report