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U.S. must drop terms: Iran

Atul Aneja

Teheran optimistic of solution to nuclear impasse

DUBAI: Iran has said the impasse over its nuclear programme could end if the United States dropped its conditions for talks.

"We think that if there is goodwill, a breakthrough to get out of a situation [the European Union and U.S.] have created for themselves... is possible," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said.

Mr. Mottaki made this observation ahead of receiving a formal package of incentives that the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany had compiled on Thursday in Vienna. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had said on the eve of these talks that Washington would be ready for a face-to-face dialogue provided Teheran suspended the enrichment of uranium. Enriched uranium is used for generating electricity. However, when enriched to a high degree, it can be used as the explosive core of a nuclear bomb.

According to Mottaki, Teheran's response to the package that European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana was expected to present in Teheran shortly, could yield positive results. "We think that the views we will present our partners could prepare the ground for a comprehensive understanding," Mr. Mottaki said at a press conference on Saturday.

He, however, said Iran would not negotiate under preconditions. "These negotiations have to be without any conditions." In Belgium, Mr. Solana's spokeswoman Cristina Gallach confirmed he would be visiting Teheran soon. "The trip is not going to be a negotiating trip, the objective is to present the proposals of the international community," she said.

As Mr. Solana prepared to leave for Teheran, the United States said Iran should promptly respond to the offer. Otherwise, it warned, Iran could face penalties. Mr. Mottaki observed that Iran would study the package "within the necessary timeframe."

Earlier on Friday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his country would not buckle under pressure. "Pressure by certain Western countries aiming to make us abandon our rights will not show results," he warned.

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said speaking about sanctions against Iran would be premature. "As far as sanctions are concerned we think it is a bit too early at the moment to talk about that," he said during a meeting with the chiefs of international news agencies. "We need to have a deep conversation with the Iranian leadership," Mr. Putin said.

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