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Iran to propose new initiative to break nuclear impasse

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said he will shortly offer the West a package of measures aimed a solution to the dispute over Iran's atomic ambitions. But will it really be anything new?

Ahmadinejad speaks at a ceremony in Iran's nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz

Ahmadinejad says he wants a new start, but are those just words?

Ahmadinejad announced the initiative in a televised speech in the southeast Iranian province of Kerman.

"We have prepared a package that can be the basis to resolve Iran's nuclear problem," the Iranian president said. "It will be offered to the West soon."

Ahmadinejad, who is up for reelection this summer, did not give much in the way of specifics about what would be proposed or how the new initiative would deviate from previous ones.

"This new package will ensure peace and justice for the world," he said. "It respects the rights of all nations."

Ahmadinejad's announcement comes after the US, Russia, China, France, Germany and England said last week that they would ask EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana to invite Iran to a meeting to find "a diplomatic solution" to the issue.

In particular, US President Barack Obama is widely considered to be far more willing to negotiate with Tehran over the nuclear issue than his predecessor George W. Bush was.

Continued Unease

Iranian women form a human chain, at the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility

Most Iranians support the nuclear program but want better relations with the West

But first reactions to the announcement were cautious.

A spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry told AFP news agency that his country would insist that Tehran suspend all uranium enrichment activities for the duration of any talks with the international community.

The US said it was willing to consider new proposals.

"If they come up with some new package with regard to their nuclear program, we'll have to take a look and see what it is," U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters.

Previous initiatives put forward by Iran have had little resonance in the West because Tehran has insisted upon its right to enrich uranium - a procedure that can be used in the creation of atomic weapons - and tried to link the impasse over its nuclear program to broader issues in the Middle East, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Iran, the world's fourth-largest producer of oil, insists that its nuclear activities are designed to enable the generation of atomic energy, not to facilitate building weapons.

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