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Iran's President says Tehran to Continue Nuclear Negotiations

Iran's president says his country is in favor of dialogue, but says the U.S. and other nuclear-armed powers must be punished for imposing new sanctions on Tehran.

Iran's top leaders are lashing out at the United States and its allies in reaction to the recent imposition of new sanctions by the U.N. Security Council.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a provincial audience that Iran would continue to seek dialogue, but on its own terms and conditions.

He says Iran has conditions for negotiations and will soon announce them. He argues Iran is seeking to negotiate, but the West has behaved badly and broken its promises.

The Iranian president's insistence Iran would continue to negotiate over its controversial nuclear program repudiated previous statements by lower level officials.

Meanwhile, Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani called for legislators to support a government plan to enrich uranium to 20 percent, as a slap in the face to what he called "domineering nations."

Larijani also threatened over a key provision in the U.N. sanctions that Iranian naval vessels may be searched if they are deemed to be carrying suspect items.

He warns the United States and other nations that if they plan to inspect the cargoes of Iranian ships and planes, they can be certain Iran will do the same to their vessels in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman. He adds that Iran will use retaliation as a policy to protect its national interests.

Alex Vatanka, an Iranian-born scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, says despite the Iranian rhetoric, the bottom line is that Iran is compelled to continue negotiating over its nuclear program to avoid further isolation:

"If you look at the rhetoric prior to the vote, you would have assumed that Iran would literally walk away from this, and forget all about it," said Alex Vatanka. "That is not what he is saying. That is not what the Iranian government is saying. The are saying, 'Let us negotiate,' and this shows you their lack of options. This shows that Iran cannot, even if they wanted to, walk away from the nuclear negotiations. From a practical point of view, they cannot go down the path of further isolation."

The Iranian government and President Ahmadinejad have come under increasing criticism from both allies and opponents inside Iran for "mishandling" the nuclear issue.