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Iran may give nuclear aid to other Muslim nations

UNITED NATIONS -- Iran is willing to provide nuclear technology to other Muslim states, Iran's president said yesterday. Hours later, European nations renewed an offer of incentives if Tehran halted its uranium enrichment.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made the comment after talking with Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at a gathering of world leaders at the United Nations, Iran's state-run Islamic Republic News Agency said.

Ahmadinejad repeated promises that Iran will not develop nuclear arms, the report said. Then he added: ''Iran is ready to transfer nuclear know-how to the Islamic countries due to their need."

At the United Nations, foreign ministers of Britain, France, and Germany, the three European countries negotiating with Iran on behalf of the European Union, said Ahmadinejad is expected to respond to the offer in a speech today at the UN General Assembly.

The Europeans made the announcement after the three ministers met with Ahmedinejad and his team, as well as with the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan.

''We put forth proposals. They are still on the table," the British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, said after the 80-minute meeting. ''They have yet properly to be considered by the other side."

Straw said Ahmadinejad would make his country's proposals in a speech to the General Assembly.

The German foreign minister, Joshcka Fischer, said that they had discussed details with Ahmedinejad and his aides, and that they had repeated the EU position. ''Hopefully, we will have a positive direction, but I can't predict that," he said.

The UN spokesman, reporting on the president's meeting with Annan, said there were ''cordial discussions on the need to continue the negotiations on the nuclear issue in search of a mutually agreed solution." A statement said Ahmedinejad had reaffirmed his intention to put forward new proposals in his General Assembly speech. .

The US State Department expressed concern about Ahmedinejad's reported proposal on transferring nuclear technology, saying it makes it more vital that other countries work in concert to stop the Iranian threat.

The United States, which suspects that Iran may be seeking to develop nuclear weapons, and European countries warned last week that Tehran is running out of time to freeze uranium processing activities or face referral to the Security Council. Tehran has rejected the threat.

France, Britain, and Germany have sought for two years to persuade Iran to give up some nuclear activities that can be used to make weapons, but talks broke down over the summer.

Straw pointed out that the meetings yesterday were the first with the Iranian side since the election of Ahmedinejad in June.

Asked whether the Europeans were losing ground in the negotiations, Straw replied: ''What we're doing is talking and that is always better than not talking. There is a new government. They wish to explain their position."

France's foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, called the discussions significant. ''We had a very frank discussion, which allows me to explain what I've been saying from the very beginning so as to avoid a crisis and to be able to speak in full confidence," he said.

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