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Iran to resume nuclear talks with EU
Iran's foreign minister said Wednesday that nuclear talks with the European Union would resume within the next two weeks.
But Manouchehr Mottaki said discussions with the United States, which recently authorized its ambassador to Iraq to meet with Iranian officials, were out of the question.
The U.S. State Department said Monday that Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad could meet with Iran over a narrow range of regional issues such as the Iran-Iraq border. The U.S. has not had regular diplomatic relations with Iran since its 1979 Islamic revolution.
France, Germany and Britain have been negotiating for the EU over Iran's nuclear program, which the U.S. and its partners fear is intended to manufacture nuclear weapons. Iran says the program is for peaceful purposes.
It restarted uranium conversion — a step toward enrichment — in August, causing the three EU countries to break off talks with Tehran intended to ease tension over the nuclear activities.
"Negotiations between EU and Iran will begin within two weeks," he said.
Responding to a question about Khalilzad's permission to meet with Iranian officials, Mottaki said reports of the approval were "rumors."
"Negotiating with the United States is not on our agenda," he said, speaking through an interpreter.
Earlier this month, diplomats in Vienna said that senior French, British and German officials would make a last-ditch effort to convince Tehran to accept a compromise on its nuclear program. The United States wants the country hauled before the U.N. Security Council for violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In an interview with Turkey's private NTV television earlier Wednesday, Mottaki said that his country was against nuclear weapons but determined to "claim its rights through negotiations" for peaceful use of nuclear technology.
"We have no tendency of moving toward nuclear weapons," Mottaki said. "It is our right to benefit from nuclear energy."
Turkey, a NATO member neighboring Iran, said it regards the presence of nuclear weapons and their proliferation as a serious security threat. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad provoked controversy last month by saying that Israel should be "wiped off the map."
Israel and Turkey, a predominantly Muslim but secular country, have close defense ties. Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize the Jewish state.
Mottaki said Iran had concerns about Israel's alleged nuclear activities. Israel neither confirms nor denies its nuclear status, but is considered to be the only nation in the region with nuclear weapons. Experts say Israel continues to produce atomic weapons and already has more than 200 warheads, as well as the capability to quickly build more.
"There is uneasiness in Middle Eastern countries over nuclear warheads by the Zionist regime in the Palestinian lands," Mottaki told NTV television.
Speaking to reporters, Mottaki said Iran believed that U.S. and other troops should withdraw from neighboring Iraq after political structures in the country were strengthened.
"Iraq's people will determine their future and the foreign forces will be able to withdraw at the end of the process," he said. "Or secondly, terrorism and instability will continue."
"We have from the onset chosen the first option," he said.
Mottaki has more meetings scheduled with Turkish officials Thursday.
Turkey has in the past accused Iran of fueling radical Islam in Turkey and sheltering Islamic extremists. Mottaki served as ambassador to Turkey between 1985-89 and came under severe criticism from the Turkish media for his close relations with the country's Islamic movement.