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Iranian leader to seek new nuclear talks

/ Source: The Associated Press

Iran's ultraconservative president promised Wednesday to offer new proposals soon for negotiations with Europe over the country's controversial nuclear program.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he had instructed the Supreme National Security Council, the country's top security decision-making body, to draw up a new set of proposals over Iran's uranium enrichment program.

“Iran will soon offer proposals about the cycle of nuclear fuel for peaceful use of nuclear energy,” Ahmadinejad said on state-run television. “We want to continue talks with all. We will continue dialogue.”

The comments by Ahmadinejad suggest he wants to launch a new dialogue in hopes of persuading Europe to recognize Iran's right to enrich uranium. They came on a day when Parliament approved most of the president's hard-line nominees for key Cabinet posts, including the foreign and interior ministers.

Europe has been trying to persuade Iran to give up its uranium enrichment program in return for economic incentives, a proposal Iran has rejected.

A spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency, Melissa Fleming, had no immediate comment on the president's statement.

In London, a British Foreign Office spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity because government policy prohibits civil servants speaking publicly in the media, said Europeans have made clear that Iran, after recently resuming uranium conversion, "needs to restore the international communities' lost confidence that its ambitions are peaceful."

U.S. seen as hostile
Ahmadinejad he didn't elaborate if that included the United States. Iran has so far said it doesn't see any role for the United States to play as long as it continues to maintain what Iran calls a hostile approach.

Enrichment is one of the final stages in the nuclear fuel process. It can produce either the fuel needed for a power reactor or material used in creating a nuclear bomb. Iran says its program is entirely peaceful, aiming only to produce electricity. The United States accuses Tehran of secretly pursuing a weapons program.

Iran suspended enrichment activities and other parts of its nuclear program as a gesture in negotiations last year. But earlier this month, Iran ended the freeze on a preliminary part of the nuclear cycle, uranium reprocessing.

France's foreign minister said Wednesday that the European Union still believes negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program are possible, despite the EU's canceling an Aug. 31 meeting because of the resumption of reprocessing.

Traces of uraniumIran claimed victory Tuesday after the U.N. nuclear agency tests concluded that traces of highly enriched uranium found on centrifuge parts at two sites in Iran were from imported equipment — rather than any enrichment activities by Iran.

The findings by the IAEA support Iran's claims that the material entered the country together with centrifuge parts provided by Pakistan.

The discovery of the traces had previously been touted by the United States as evidence Iran was experimenting with producing highly enriched uranium, which is only used in nuclear weapons.

On the cabinet, the president's nominees included several members of the Revolutionary Guards or those with a history of cooperating with the Guards and security agencies.

The Guards have been gradually exerting more direct influence on Iranian political and economic life in recent years. Each advance further cements the near-total control of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — taking influence away from reformers trying to bring democratic changes within the ruling Islamic establishment.

The new foreign minister, Manuchehr Mottaki, is a former conservative lawmaker who has criticized Iran's nuclear negotiations with the Europeans, saying the country should make no concessions.

The interior minister, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, is a former deputy intelligence minister, who has called the United States Iran's biggest enemy.

The intelligence minister, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehei, is a cleric whom reformist journalists regard as an opponent of press freedom.

And the new minister of culture and Islamic guidance, Mohammad Hossein Safar Harandi, is a former Revolutionary Guards commander and editor of a hard-line daily.

Parliament members rejected the nominee for the oil ministry, Ali Saeedlou, saying he was not competent to run the powerful department. Nominees for three other cabinet posts were also refused.