Iran: nuke talks 'opportunity' for West

Feb 19, 2013, 6:39 AM EST
In this photo released by an official website of the Iranian supreme leader's office, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaks to the crowd in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013.
(AP Photo/Office of the Supreme Leader)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran is prepared to ease Western concerns about Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for pledges from the U.S. and others about the country's ability to enrich uranium, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman said Tuesday.

The remarks signaled a possible opening before next week's talks with world powers, due in the Kazakhstan capital.

The West has been reluctant to make clear declarations on Iran's nuclear "rights" in previous negotiations last year that ended in stalemate. Tehran is seeking international acknowledgment that its uranium enrichment program is acceptable within the U.N. treaty governing the spread of nuclear technology — a treaty that Iran has signed.

The U.S. and allies fear Iran's enrichment program could lead to atomic weapons; Tehran says its nuclear fuel is only for energy-producing reactors and medical applications.

The talks last year hit an impasse over Iran's highest-level enrichment, at 20 percent, which can be rapidly converted to weapons grade material. Iran says it needs the 20 percent uranium for its medical research reactor. It also produces lower-enriched uranium at 3.5 percent for its Russian-build electricity reactor.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters on Tuesday that an important "opportunity" awaits next week's talks in Kazakhstan between Iran and a six-nation group, the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany.

"We will offer ways for removing possible concerns and ambiguities to show our goodwill, if Western countries, especially the U.S., fully recognize the nuclear rights of countries, which shows their goodwill," he said.

"Same-level, same-weight" mutual actions can be followed by Iran to reach an "understanding point," Mehmanparast added.

Earlier this month, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Washington was ready to hold one-on-one talks with Iran, an offer that was later rejected by Iranian leaders.

On Saturday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said his country was not seeking nuclear weapons, but that if Tehran intended to build them, the U.S. couldn't stop it.