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Iran 'welcomes' proposal for more N-talks

world Updated: May 05, 2007 14:13 IST

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Iran's foreign minister has welcomed a Swiss proposal for continued talks on Tehran's disputed nuclear programme, which the West suspects is aimed at making atom bombs, Iranian media reports on Saturday.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki met a Swiss envoy on the sidelines of a May 3-4 international conference in Egypt organised to seek ways to end the violence in neighboring Iraq, reports local media.

The report did not give details of Mottaki's views on the Swiss plan, which Western diplomats have said was among topics discussed at a meeting between Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana in Turkey on April 25-26.

Diplomats said Switzerland had proposed a staged plan leading to a simultaneous suspension of Iran's uranium enrichment work and of U.N. sanctions, which would enable talks between Iran and six world powers to begin.

But they said Larijani made it clear to Solana that Iran had no intention of fully suspending its work to refine uranium, which can be used to fuel nuclear power plants or make nuclear weapons. Iran says it only wants to generate electricity.

"Mottaki welcomed the Swiss proposal for the continuation of talks on Iran's peaceful nuclear programme," Tehran Times said. The story did not include any direct quotes. Iranian officials were not immediately available for comment.

The Solana-Larijani talks are expected to reconvene later in May but the place and time have yet to be announced.

One diplomat told the media this week that Iran had said it was considering the Swiss offer but would not accept a "full suspension before, during or after talks".

Two sets of United Nations sanctions have been imposed on Iran since December and major powers this week warned a third, tougher resolution might be needed unless Tehran halted its most sensitive nuclear activities.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly ruled out any retreat on the nuclear programme, including the idea of a "double suspension", under which Tehran would halt uranium enrichment in return for a lifting of sanctions.