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World

EU gets Iran back to the negotiating table

Iran welcomes a "constructive" dialogue with big powers about its controversial nuclear program, which for the first time could involve direct negotiations with the United States.

Solana and Jalili seated at a desk for a news conference

Solana and Jalili get in touch

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili told EU foreign policy coordinator Javier Solana that Tehran was willing to discuss its nuclear program.

According to Iran's ISNA news agency, Jalili, who is a top official at Iran's Supreme National Security Council, spoke to Solana on the telephone. ISNA on Monday quoted Jalili as saying that Tehran would soon declare its official stance on the matter.

In Brussels, a spokeswoman for Solana confirmed that he and Jalili "had a constructive conversation," and "agreed to remain in contact."

Last Wednesday, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the United States, Britain, Russia, China, and France -- together with Germany tasked Solana with inviting Iran to discuss its nuclear program.

The west suspects Tehran is secretly making atomic weapons and has repeatedly called on the country to stop its uranium enrichment program. Iran says its nuclear program is designed purely for generating electricity.

A new beginning

On the Persian New Year Day, US President Barack Obama advocated a "new beginning" in the relationship between the arch-foes, marking a major shift in US policy under the new administration.

While inaugurating Iran's first nuclear fuel plant last week, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the Islamic Republic would be ready for talks with the West if they were based on respect and justice.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Robert Wood repeated the US offer to hold talks with Iran without any preconditions, but said Iran needed to show the international community that its nuclear program is a peaceful one.

“Right now, the international community is very skeptical about that," Wood said.

db/nw/nk, afp/reuters


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