PHOTO: Iranian President Khatami meets with South African Foreign Minister Zuma in Tehran
Raheb Homavandi  /  Reuters
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, right, meets with South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma in Tehran on Tuesday as a European delegation launched a new round of talks about Iran's nuclear program.
updated 12/14/2004 10:48:54 AM ET 2004-12-14T15:48:54

Iran is willing to talk with the United States about a nuclear program that Washington alleges is aimed at secretly acquiring the bomb, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said Monday.

Germany, Britain and France launched new negotiations with Iran on Monday to try to persuade Tehran to abandon any nuclear program that could be used for weapons, in return for aid to build up its civilian energy program.

Kharrazi told a news conference that talks with Washington could also be possible. The United States broke diplomatic relations with Iran after militant students seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.

‘No reason not to talk’
“If negotiations are on the basis of equality and mutual respect in the same way we are talking to Europeans now, there is no reason not to talk to others,” Kharrazi said in response to a question about Tehran’s willingness to hold talks with the United States on its nuclear program.

Iran’s reformers support dialogue with Washington but hard-liners are opposed to any rapprochement, arguing that the only U.S. goal is to bring about the collapse of the ruling Islamic establishment.

Some Europeans have expressed hopes that America’s engagement in talks with Iran would increase pressure on Tehran to permanently abandon any weapons program and reassure its rulers that Washington was not seeking their overthrow.

Kharrazi, addressing the news conference with his South African counterpart, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, said Iran will assess the talks with European countries within three months if new negotiations do not meet Iran’s demand to use its nuclear program for domestic energy purposes.

“If we see that talks are waste of time and have no results, definitely we will make our own decisions,” he said.

Iran denies it's ‘wasting time’
Kharrazi described the talks as “very serious” and dismissed allegations that Tehran was stalling, insisting that Iran had “no interest in wasting time.”

Iran agreed to a temporary deal with the Europeans last month to suspend uranium enrichment but has insisted that the freeze is voluntary and short.

Zuma, whose country is an influential member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, said South Africa defends “Iran’s right for peaceful use of nuclear technology,” but was opposed to a weapons program.

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