Ahmadinejad welcomes Russia nuclear proposal

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday welcomed Russia's latest proposals for restarting talks on the Islamic republic's controversial atomic programme that were broken off in January.

"Iran welcomes Russia's step-by-step proposal and is ready to make suggestions to cooperate," he said in a meeting with Russia's visiting National Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev, quoted on the presidency website.

"In the step-by-step proposal, we will take your and that of the supreme leader's views into consideration since they are important and we consider them vital to reaching a positive solution," Patrushev was quoted as saying.

Iran's all-powerful supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on the country's major political decisions, especially on foreign policy and the nuclear issue.

After two sessions with Patrushev, Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili also said earlier on Tuesday that Tehran welcomed Russia's proposal to renew talks.

He was refering to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's "step-by-step" plan unveiled in mid-July.

Under the proposal, Iran would address questions about its nuclear activities and the major powers would start reducing international economic sanctions against Tehran.

"Our Russian friends' proposals can be the basis for commencing talks on regional and international cooperation, particularly in the field of peaceful nuclear activities," Jalili said, quoted on state television's website.

"Talks for cooperation and dialogue-cooperation strategy can be a good strategy," Jalili said. "We and six countries -- P5+1 -- as seven nations can work out cooperation through this strategy."

Patrushev was likewise upbeat on the outcome of his talks. "I am here on an invitation from Mr Jalili and we had very good negotiations," the Russian official said.

"We also talked about multilateral cooperation, particularly about Iran's nuclear issue and the necessity of interaction with 5+1 group and the International Atomic Energy Agency," he said.

Moscow is seeking to revive nuclear negotiations between Iran and major world powers known as the P5+1, the five UN Security Council permanent members plus Germany.

As a follow-up to Patrushev's visit, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi left for Moscow on Tuesday to hold further talks.

Tehran is at loggerheads with the West over its nuclear programme, and the last round of talks between the Islamic republic and the world powers in January broke down in Istanbul.

Iran has been hit by four rounds of Security Council sanctions over its programme of uranium enrichment, which Western powers suspect has a military dimension despite Tehran's repeated denials.

The United States and European Union have also imposed their own unilateral sanctions on Iranian banks and the oil sector, posing risks for foreign companies which deal with them.

Iran remains adamant, however, that it will push ahead with its controversial enrichment activities, which can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or the fissile material for an atomic warhead.

In early July, Iran announced it will triple its production of enriched uranium, a move denounced as "provocation" by the US and France.

Tehran insists it will use the enriched uranium to fuel its future nuclear power plants, and that its atomic programme is entirely peaceful.

On Saturday, Ahmadinejad repeated Tehran's sustained stance that it was not seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

"Nuclear weapons are the means of the previous century ... If any country tries to build a nuclear bomb, they waste their money and their resources," Ahmadinejad told Russia Today television.

© 2011 AFP

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