x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Iran 'ready for unconditional nuclear talks'

Tehran is reported to be ready for negotiations with the West on its disputed nuclear programme based on mutual respect and without preconditions.

A senior Iranian official said Tehran was ready for negotiations with the West on its disputed nuclear programme based on mutual respect and without preconditions, state television has reported. President Barack Obama has given Iran until September to take up a six-power offer of talks on trade benefits if it shelves sensitive nuclear enrichment, or face harsher sanctions. Iranian officials have made similar statements in the past about possible discussions on Tehran's nuclear activities, while vowing not to back down in the row with the West.

But political turmoil in the Islamic state following its June election clouded prospects for dialogue and today's announcement may come as a positive surprise for Washington, even though it did not mention next month's deadline. "Talks without preconditions is Iran's main stance in negotiations on the nuclear issue," Iran's envoy to the UN nuclear agency watchdog, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, was quoted as saying by state television.

"Soltanieh announced Iran's readiness to take part in any negotiations with the West based on mutual respect," the television report said. The West suspects Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons. Iran, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, says its programme is aimed at peaceful power generation and has ruled out suspending or freezing its activities. * Reuters