Iran proposes new nuclear talks

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran said Saturday it has proposed a new round of talks on its nuclear program with six world powers that have been trying for years to persuade Tehran to freeze aspects of its atomic work that could provide a possible pathway to weapons production.

The country's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, said he has formally called on the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany to return to negotiations.

The invitation comes after new sanctions recently imposed by the West over Tehran's enrichment of uranium, a process that produces fuel for reactors but which can also be used in making nuclear weapons. Iran insists it only has peaceful intentions, while the United States and many of its European allies suspect Iran of aiming to use a civilian nuclear energy program as a cover for developing a weapons capability.

The last round of negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany was held in January in Istanbul, Turkey, but it ended in failure.

"We formally declared to them (the intent) to return to the path of dialogue for cooperation," Jalili told Iranian diplomats in Tehran, according to the official IRNA news agency. Jalili did not say when or through what channel he issued the invitation.

Iran's ambassador to Germany, Ali Reza Sheikh Attar, said earlier Saturday that Jalili was to send a letter soon to E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to arrange a new round of talks.

Michael Mann, a spokesman for Ashton, said she had not yet received any new communication from Iran.

The Iranian announcement was the latest signal from Tehran that the country is feeling the impact of international sanctions. The United Nations has imposed sanctions, and the United States and the European Union have imposed their own penalties.

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Official: Oil route won't be closed

Talk of blocking the strategic oil route through the Strait of Hormuz is a discussion of the past, a commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard said Saturday in comments that seemed to back away from an earlier threat. But he said Iran had other, unspecified strategies for reacting to any Western aggression.

"Discourse about closing the Strait of Hormuz belongs to five years ago. Today's debate in the Islamic Republic of Iran contains new layers and the time has not come to raise it," Gen. Masoud Jazayeri said in comments posted Saturday on the Guard's website, sepahnews.com. He did not elaborate.

Vice President Mohammed Reza Rahimi threatened on Tuesday to close the strait, cutting off oil exports, if the West imposes sanctions on Iran's oil shipments.

Iran proposes new nuclear talks 12/31/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 31, 2011 9:30pm]

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