TEHRAN, Sept 14 – Iran agreed on Monday to hold talks with six world powers next month on its latest proposals to allay concerns over its nuclear programme, in a move Washington welcomed as an "important first step."
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana spoke by telephone with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and they agreed that talks would be held on October 1 between Iran and representatives of the six powers.
"Iran is ready for a serious dialogue in October," Jalili said.
"This morning we reached an agreement with the Iranians to hold a meeting on October 1," Solana’s spokeswoman said.
She said the venue for the talks between Iran and the six governments — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — was still to be decided.
Washington welcomed Tehran’s agreement to enter talks.
"Let’s say it’s an important first step and one hopes for the best," US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of the UN atomic watchdog in Vienna.
The six powers had called for urgent talks with Iran after it handed new proposals to their representatives on Wednesday.
Washington had expressed disappointment with the package, saying it was "not really responsive to our greatest concern," but Moscow said it offered "something to dig into."
According to a copy of the proposals obtained and published by US non-profit investigative journalism group, Pro Publica, Iran said it was prepared to hold "comprehensive, all-encompassing and constructive negotiations."
The talks would address nuclear disarmament as well as a global framework for the use of "clean nuclear energy," the document said, without specifically referring to Iran’s own nuclear programme.
Foreign ministers of the six powers will meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York next week to prepare for the talks with Iran, France said.
They will be the first since the hotly disputed re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a June vote that sparked Iran’s worst unrest since the 1979 revolution.
The Iranian president is himself to attend the General Assembly next week.
On Sunday, Ahmadinejad said that Iran was ready to talk with world powers about global issues but not to negotiate over Tehran’s right to nuclear technology.
"Having peaceful nuclear technology is Iran’s lawful and definite right and Iranians will not negotiate with anyone over their undeniable rights," he said.
Foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi reiterated the point on Monday.
"It is obvious that the Iranian people will not negotiate about their undeniable nuclear rights," Ghashghavi told a news conference.
But he said Iran was trying to allay Western concerns that it is seeking to develop an atomic bomb under cover of its nuclear programme.
"As you saw, one of the objectives of the package is to certainly remove the concern about the nuclear issue by focusing on global disarmament and implementing a slogan that nuclear energy is for everyone, but atomic bomb for no one," he said.
Ghashghavi said the issue of global nuclear disarmament could act as a "good basis for discussions".
The six powers have been pressing Iran to agree to suspend uranium enrichment, the process which produces nuclear fuel or, in highly extended form, the fissile core of an atomic bomb.
Iran has ignored repeated UN Security Council ultimatums to halt the sensitive activity and has been punished with three sets of UN sanctions.
In April, the six powers called on Iran to enter negotiations by the end of September or risk further sanctions.