Iran accepts EU invitation for more nuclear talks

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has accepted the European Union’s proposal for more talks about the country’s controversial nuclear program, state TV reported Tuesday.

A round of talks in Istanbul in January collapsed after Iran said it wouldn’t freeze uranium enrichment, which could be harnessed to make atomic weapons. At the time, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said no new talks were planned but world powers remained open to more discussions.

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, sent a reply to Ashton, suggesting more talks aimed at “cooperation over mutual points,” according to state TV. He also said the talks should be fair, “respect rights of nations and avoid pressure.”

He gave no date for the talks, but President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday the next round of talks would be held in Istanbul.

Jalili did not say what Iran might bring to the table and instead maintained that Iran’s past proposal on comprensive talks was based on a “correct understanding of realities.”

The U.S. and its European allies suspect Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon, a charge Iran denies.

A British diplomat said Britain would meet with its five negotiating partners — the U.S., France, Russia, China and Germany — and consult with Ashton for a unified response.

As a precondition for any resumption of talks, “Iran will have to focus on the nuclear issue,” he said, alluding to Tehran’s reluctance to discuss any curbs on its nuclear activities. He spoke on condition of anonymity, saying his nation did not want to get ahead of its partners.

Iran has been hit with several rounds of U.N. sanctions over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.

Tehran insists it wants only to provide peaceful nuclear energy for its rising population and noting that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty allows for enrichment as a source of fuel.

But international concerns have grown — since its uranium enrichment program could also make fissile warhead material and its nuclear secrecy and also because Iran refuses to cooperate with U.N. investigations of suspicions that it ran alleged experiments related to making nuclear weapons.

Low-enriched uranium can be used to fuel a reactor to generate electricity, which Iran says is the intention of its program. But if uranium is further enriched to around 90 percent purity, it can be used to develop a nuclear warhead.

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