Page last updated at 13:30 GMT, Sunday, 3 August 2008 14:30 UK

Iran 'is open to nuclear talks'

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 03/08
Mr Ahmadinejad has said several times he is serious about negotiations

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said he is serious about nuclear talks - one day after saying he would not retreat "one iota" on the issue.

And in a televised address he made no mention of the latest international efforts to halt Iran's activities.

Iran was given a 14-day deadline expiring on Saturday to agree to freeze uranium enrichment in return for no further sanctions - but made no reply.

Analysts say his comments seem to have restored deadlock in the nuclear talks.

Mr Ahmadinejad told the televised press conference: "We are serious in talks and we want the talks to be based on the law so it will bear practical results.

"We hope that other sides are serious too."

But the BBC's Jon Leyne in Tehran points out that Mr Ahmadinejad also insists Iran is not willing to back down over its nuclear programme - so it is not clear what any negotiations would involve.

Timeline denial

The Iranian leader was speaking after a two-day meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - who had earlier promised to use his ties with Iran to help resolve Tehran's nuclear stand-off with the West.

But Mr Assad told a news conference: "I am not a mediator nor an emissary, and was not asked to deliver any message by any Western official."

He said the nuclear issue had featured in their meeting, but gave no further details.

Tehran has claimed consistently that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes, but the US and its allies believe it could be used to develop a nuclear weapon.

Iran was set the informal deadline to agree to suspend its uranium enrichment after its chief nuclear negotiator met officials from the UN, EU and the US in Geneva on 19 July.

In return, the international powers said they would impose no further sanctions on the country.

But Iran has made no public response to the offer - and officials were quoted on Saturday denying that any such timeline had been agreed.

Analysts say the Iranian government may appear to be pressing ahead regardless with its nuclear programme, but it must also be worried that it is facing steadily-growing international isolation.

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