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Iran makes offer to restart nuclear talks, with a caveat

By Nasser Karimi
Associated Press / November 10, 2010

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TEHRAN — Iran offered yesterday to resume nuclear talks with the United States and other world powers, though it set a possible deal-breaking ground rule by insisting that a key international demand be left off the table.

The shifting signals from Tehran — which also included separate announcements with different timetables for talks — raised questions about whether Iran is seriously interested in reopening international dialogue over its nuclear program or is trying to emphasize the point that it would never accept a package requiring that it halt uranium enrichment.

Iran ruled out any discussion of a nuclear fuel exchange deal like the one it balked at last year that was meant to ensure it could not divert material to nuclear weapons production.

That could force the six-nation group of negotiators — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany — to either shun Tehran’s outreach or come up with a new formula to thwart any possible Iranian attempt to make nuclear weapons.

Last year’s UN-drafted proposal would have at least delayed Iran’s ability to go down the weapons path by requiring it to ship nearly all of its stockpile of enriched uranium abroad to be returned as reactor-ready fuel.

Iran rejected that deal but later accepted a similar fuel swap proposal from allies Brazil and Turkey. The six nations said that offer fell short of their demands.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, said the proposed talks would “not include the issue of the fuel swap under any circumstance,’’ according to the semiofficial Mehr news agency.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said Iran’s nuclear program is a risk to the entire world and stopping it requires convincing the regime in Tehran that “all options’’ are on the table.

Material from Bloomberg News was used in this report.

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