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Iran ready for nuclear talks with West, says Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Iran is ready for nuclear talks with the world powers amid toughening sanctions aimed at forcing Tehran to scale back its nuclear program.
/ Source: news services

Updated 11:35 a.m.ET: Iran says European countries will be the losers from the EU's oil sanctions, imposed earlier this week. "It is the West that needs Iran and the Iranian nation will not lose from the sanctions," President Ahmadinejad said in his first public comments on the issue since the EU's 27 member states agreed to the ban on Monday. EU countries comprise 10 percent of the market for Iranian oil. Although the EU believes resurgent production from Libya will eventually replace the oil currently supplied by Iran, some economists fear there could be significant price rises in the short term, harming already fragile European economies.

Published 8:13 a.m.ET: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that Iran was ready for nuclear talks with the world powers amid toughening sanctions aimed at forcing Tehran to sharply scale back its nuclear program.

Ahmadinejad, however, said sanctions would not force Iran to capitulate to Western demands.

The United States and allies want Iran to halt uranium enrichment, which they worry could lead to weapons-grade material. Iran says it only seeks reactors for energy and research.

Ahmadinejad made the remarks in Kerman, southeastern Iran.

Iran had previously indicated that it is ready for a new round of talks with the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany.

U.N. nuclear team
A senior U.N. nuclear agency team is expected to visit Tehran at the weekend.

How Tehran deals with the International Atomic Energy Agency may offer pointers to prospects for resolving a long-running dispute that an oil embargo and threats of war, along with talk of Iran closing in on nuclear weapons capability and the U.S. presidential election calendar, have escalated to crisis level.

The outcome of the inspectors' meetings from Sunday to Tuesday will be closely watched in Washington, European capitals and Israel for signs of whether Iran's leadership may finally be prepared to give ground after a decade of pursuing its nuclear development goals or whether it remains as defiant as ever.

"I hope that, at a minimum, the parties can agree on how to proceed in resolving outstanding issues, and that also includes the military dimension of Iran's nuclear program," said Olli Heinonen, a former chief U.N. safeguards inspector.

U.S.-made fighter crashes
Meanwhile, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency said a U.S.-made F-14 Iranian fighter jet crashed in Bushehr province in southern Iran Thursday.

Provincial governor Mohammad Hossein Jahanbakhsh said both the pilot and the co-pilot were killed in Thursday's crash.

The Fars report said the fighter plane crashed due to technical failure and that authorities had recovered the wreckage outside Bushehr, a port city with the same name as the province.

Bushehr is known as the location of Iran's first nuclear power plant.

Iran purchased many U.S.-made planes, including F-14s before the 1979 Islamic Revolution and during the rule of the late pro-Western Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.