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November 09, 2010

Ahmadinejad Casts New Doubts on Talks with West

Comments Wednesday by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are raising new questions about possible talks between Tehran and global powers.

Mr. Ahmadinejad told a rally in the central Iranian town of Qazvin Wednesday Iran will not discuss the country's rights to pursue nuclear technology.  Instead, he said Iran would only talk about resolving global issues and promoting peace at a potential meeting with world powers.

The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany, a group known as the P5+1, have been trying to set up talks with Iran specifically to discuss Tehran's controversial nuclear program.

On Tuesday, Iran said it was ready to hold those talks in Turkey in late November or early December.

The proposal was delivered in a letter to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.  However, Iranian officials also said Tuesday that issues such as a proposed fuel swap and uranium enrichment may not be on the agenda.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said Tuesday the P5+1 would likely discuss Iran's response over the next few days.

Earlier Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Tehran is ready to resume talks on its nuclear program with the P5+1.

Iran's Mehr news agency quoted Mottaki as saying officials are considering a November 15 start date for talks.   

Western officials have been hoping to use the talks to examine prospects for reviving a proposal offered a year ago.  The deal called for Iran to ship much of its enriched uranium stockpile abroad in return for fuel for a Tehran research reactor.

Iran initially accepted the proposal but later backed away from the initiative.  In May, Iran said it was ready to accept a variant of the swap plan proposed by Turkey and Brazil.

The United States and other Western powers believe Iran is using its nuclear program to develop nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.