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IRAN AGREES TO TALKS, SAYS IT WILL DEFEND NUCLEAR SITES

VIENNA - Iran agreed Monday to hold talks with the United States and other global powers on Oct. 1 but also repeated its vow to fend off attacks against its nuclear facilities.

European Union officials said the talks will include Iran's top nuclear negotiator and representatives of the United States, Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China. The discussion will be the first between Iran and the six world powers in more than a year.

Iran in recent days has appeared to rule out curbs on its atomic energy program, declaring its pursuit of nuclear power to be an "inalienable right." But U.S. and EU officials on Monday expressed hope that the new talks could ultimately include Iran's nuclear ambitions.

"This is an important first step," said Steven Chu, the U.S. energy secretary, who was attending a meeting at the Vienna headquarters of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In Tehran, a Foreign Ministry spokesman appeared to dampen expectations. "Talks will focus on disarmament and international concerns, not the Iranian rights enshrined by Non-Proliferation Treaty," said spokesman Hassan Qashqavi, referring to Iran's claim of a legitimate right to seek peaceful nuclear power.

At the Vienna IAEA meeting, the head of Iran's nuclear energy organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, warned against pre-emptive strikes against the country's nuclear facilities and railed against what he called the "arrogance" of declared nuclear powers such as the United States that would seek to prevent other countries from developing a nuclear infrastructure.

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Iran conservative condemns leaders

A prominent Iranian conservative respected by supporters of the country's Islamic regime issued a blistering condemnation of the ruling establishment and its supreme leader on Monday over the bloody aftermath of Iran's disputed presidential election. In a letter, Mohammad Nourizad, a filmmaker and activist praised until recently by hard-liners, called on Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to apologize for ordering the crackdown against protesters who took to the streets in June after the election returned the hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.

Associated Press

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