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Iran ready for talks, barring Israel

Nusa Dua (Indonesia), May 13 (Reuters): Iran is ready to talk with any country except Israel but not under threat of force, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today.

“If they want to resort to the use of force we will not go into dialogue with them,” he told journalists attending the Developing Eight (D-8) summit in Nusa Dua on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali.

“We are ready to hold dialogue with all countries of the world except for the Israeli regime,” Ahmadinejad added.

He also said Tehran would abide by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in cooperating with other countries.

The Iranian President’s comments came as European ministers prepared to discuss a new proposal in Brussels on Monday to end the long-running standoff over Iran’s nuclear programme.

The plan includes incentives for cooperation in ending uranium enrichment but also a threat of targeted sanctions if Tehran was seen as obstructionist.

The US and western allies suspect Iran’s declared civilian nuclear energy programme is a smokescreen for a nuclear weapons programme.

The UN Security Council is considering a draft resolution by Britain and France and backed by the US that demands Iran suspend uranium enrichment. But Russia and China oppose parts of the text.

US state department spokesman Edgar Vasquez, reacting to Ahmadinejad’s comments in Indonesia, said Iran must suspend uranium enrichment, cooperate with the IAEA, and return to good-faith negotiations.

“By all appearances up to now they only seem to engage in delaying and stalling while going down the road of acquiring a nuclear weapon,” he said.

Ahmadinejad sent a letter earlier this month to President George W. Bush which some interpreted as an overture to ease the nuclear dispute. But he said today the letter was not related to Iran’s nuclear programme.

“This letter was meant to open a new horizon for the politicians in the world,” Ahmadinejad said at a news conference after the summit of Muslim-majority nations.

Shortly before he spoke, the D-8 issued the summit’s closing declaration, which made no direct reference to Iran’s nuclear programme or the dispute over it. The declaration did make a general endorsement of peaceful development of nuclear energy.

However, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he had told his Iranian counterpart directly “that a continued cooperation should be made between Iran and IAEA to have a peaceful, just solution” to the dispute.

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