Iranian officials say they are pleased the United States and other
world powers have accepted Iran's offer to hold talks, but they insist
Iran will not back down from its refusal to negotiate on its
controversial nuclear program.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said he welcomed talks with the U.S. and its partners, adding that "should conditions be ripe, there is a possibility of talks about the nuclear issue."
Mottaki's remarks came as the United States and its partner nations accepted a proposal made earlier this week from Iran for broad talks - even though Tehran had said the nuclear issue was not on the table.
But the "possibility" of talks on Iran's nuclear issue comes with stipulation says director of the Center for Arab & Iranian Studies Ali Nourizadeh.
"Possibility means that Iran is ready to talk about nuclear issues if the United States and other foreign countries, they accept Iran's right to continue enrichment programs. There won't be any return from the enrichment program," he said.
Iran on Wednesday presented the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - U.S., Russia, France, Britain and China - plus Germany with a proposal to hold "comprehensive, all-encompassing and constructive" talks on a range of security issues, including global nuclear disarmament.
The document made no mention of Tehran's nuclear program, which the West fears masks a nuclear arms ambitions. Tehran says the program is only for peaceful purposes.
Mottaki's remark follows recent public statements from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who said he refused to discuss Iran's "nuclear right" with world leaders.
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said that although Iran sidestepped the nuclear issue in its proposal, the U.S. viewed it as a chance to begin direct dialogue.
But, Nourizadeh says Iran's desire to meet with the U.S. is more about legitimization than diplomacy. He adds that he is pessimistic that dialogue will yield the suspension of Iran's nuclear enrichment program.
"I don't think there's anything for the United States. They will come out more disappointed with nothing in their hands," said Nourizadeh.
The U.S. State Department hopes for a better outcome and says it would like to meet with Iran as soon as possible.