Left: Iranian nuclear technicians; photo courtesy of AFP and BBC
(Tehran) Iran rejected new US preconditions for talks over its controversial uranium enrichment program. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said the country was ready for negotiations but unwilling to suspend sensitive nuclear work.
"Iran welcomes dialogue under just conditions but won't give up our rights," he said in remarks quoted by Iranian state television. "We won't negotiate about the Iranian nation's natural nuclear rights, but we are prepared, within a defined, just framework and without any discrimination, to hold dialogue about common concerns."
Mottaki's comments were the country's first official reaction to an announcement by the US yesterday that it would join other countries for face-to-face talks with Iranian leaders, provided Iran stops enriching uranium.
President Bush said today that the nuclear standoff will proceed to the UN Security Council if Tehran continues its nuclear program.
"We'll see whether or not that is the firm position of their government," he said. "If they continue their abstinence, if they continue to say to the world `We really don't care what your opinion is,' then the world is going to act in concert."
Iran announced in April that it had enriched uranium for the first time. Enrichment can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or material for a warhead, although tens of thousands of centrifuges are needed to accomplish either goal.
Iran is believed to possess approximately 164 centrifuges at this time.
Officials in Iran also announced that some of the nation's researchers have also been working on a nuclear fusion program.