World News

Iran rejects nuclear program talks

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear enrichment activities would be meaningless because the country has a legal right to pursue the technology, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying on Sunday.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (C) attending a demonstration to mark the anniversary of Jerusalem Day in Tehran October 5, 2007. Ahmadinejad on Sunday said negotiations over Iran's nuclear enrichment activities would be meaningless because the country has a legal right to pursue the technology. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

The West suspects Tehran is developing its nuclear program to produce atomic weapons but Iran says it is only pursuing a means to produce electricity for civilian needs.

Tehran has defied U.N. resolutions calling on it to suspend uranium enrichment, and on Sunday Ahmadinejad rejected the idea of holding talks on the issue.

“It is meaningless to hold talks over Iran’s obvious and legal right to nuclear technology,” the news agency ISNA quoted him as saying.

The United States severed relations with Tehran’s after its 1979 Islamic revolution which toppled the U.S.-backed Shah.

Washington also accuses Shi’ite Muslim Iran of providing funds, arms and training to Iraqi Shi’ite militants and of supporting terrorism. Iran denies the charge, blaming the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 for the bloodshed in Iraq.

On Wednesday, President George W. Bush said Washington had made it clear to Iran that negotiations were possible if it shut down the program, although last month Bush’s top diplomat Condoleezza Rice said she did not expect any talks soon.

Ahmadinejad said Iran was not seeking dialogue.

“We have never asked for holding talks with America. Talks can be held only if America changes its behavior fundamentally,” he said, according to the agency.

“We should set conditions for talks, not Bush.”

The U.N. Security Council has imposed two series of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program and Washington is pushing hard for a third.

However, major powers have agreed to hold off until November to await a report by European Union negotiator Javier Solana and to see whether Iran, under a pact with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, explains the scope of its activities.