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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 November 2006, 21:51 GMT
Iran hints at new nuclear talks
Ali Larijani
Dr Larijani's comments may indicate a softening of Iran's position
Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, has suggested that Tehran is prepared to resume negotiations over its nuclear programme.

He told Iranian state media it was important for Iran to have a nuclear research and development programme.

All other issues, including Iran's programme of uranium enrichment, could be resolved through talks, he said.

But he ruled out suspending Iran's nuclear activities before talks start, a key demand of the US.

"We are ready to negotiate, and are committed to continuing our previous talks. We believe that any solution must be achieved through negotiations," he told Iranian state media.

"Otherwise, we will go ahead with our plans."

The BBC's Frances Harrison, in Tehran, says the timing of Mr Larijani's words is interesting.

When hopes for negotiations have faded they seem to offer a slight softening of the Iranian position, especially when taken in the context of recent remarks by the Iranian president, our correspondent says.

'Great celebration'

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has taken a much tougher line, vowing that Iran will not suspend its nuclear programme even for one day.

I hope that by the end of the [Iranian] year we will be able to hold the great celebration of Iran's nuclear right
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Speaking before Mr Larijani on Thursday, Mr Ahmadinejad said Iran was ready to take the "final step".

"I hope that by the end of the [Iranian] year [in March 2007] we will be able to hold the great celebration of Iran's nuclear right."

Asked what Mr Ahmadinejad meant, Mr Larijani said the president was referring to research and development in the field of enrichment.

"We are at a research level, which must be completed, it is important that we master this technology [enrichment] and we want to develop our activities in this area of research," the AFP news agency quoted him as saying.

On the issue of possible talks with the US on Iraq, Mr Larijani said there was no one voice emerging from the US and it would be better if the message from Washington was clearer, our correspondent says.

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