Iran says ready for unconditional nuclear talks with Europeans

Iran reiterated Tuesday that it was ready to reopen unconditional negotiations with Europeans over its controversial nuclear program, which Washington says is aimed at producing a nuclear bomb. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi also hinted that the uranium gas Iran has produced is low quality and needs purification before it can be injected into centrifuges to enrich uranium. Iran says it needs to enrich uranium to produce nuclear fuel for its future nuclear power plants. Talks between Britain, Germany and France – which negotiated on behalf of the 25-nation European Union – and Iran collapsed in early August after Iran resumed uranium reprocessing activities at its Uranium Conversion Facility in Isfahan, in central Iran. Tehran had suspended uranium conversion work under a November 2004 deal with the European troika. “Iran has no problem with resuming negotiations, but the Islamic Republic of Iran doesn’t accept pressure and conditional talks,” Asefi told a press conference. European states have said in the past that negotiations would not resume unless Iran stops uranium reprocessing in Isfahan. Tehran says it will never again stop uranium conversion but is ready for dialogue. Also Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Tehran hopes to gain support among countries in the Persian Gulf in its confrontation with the West over its nuclear program. During his first stop on a three-country tour of the region, Iran’s top diplomat was asked if he had sought Arab mediation in the dispute that saw the UN nuclear watchdog agency last month threaten to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions. “Our ties with Arab countries in the southern Persian Gulf includes this topic. Something of the sort exists among us,” Mottaki said at a news conference. Mottaki, who spoke through an interpreter, did not elaborate but said Tehran’s nuclear activities were “peaceful” and Iran would not give up its right to “enjoy that.”