ISTANBUL - Iran is prepared to pursue nuclear diplomacy with
world powers before or after next month's presidential election in the Islamic
Republic, its chief negotiator said on Thursday.
Saeed Jalili, who is
also a candidate in the presidential race, was speaking after talks on the
nuclear dispute with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine
"We are ready to continue our talks with the (six powers)
whenever they are ready, before or after the presidential election in Iran...
Talks will take place soon," Jalili told a news conference in Istanbul, without
giving a date.
Jalili's meeting with Ashton, who oversees talks with Iran
on behalf of the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany,
followed a failed round of big power diplomacy in April, in the Kazakh city of
Jalili also reiterated that Iran would never abandon its right to
enrich uranium. Major powers want Tehran to suspend its enrichment activities to
reassure the world that it is not seeking nuclear weapons. Iran denies having
any such goal.
"Even after the elections in Iran, the people of Iran will
not allow their right to enrichment to be taken away," he said, adding that
international sanctions on Iran should be lifted.
Any movement in the
decade-old standoff will now probably have to wait until after Iranians vote on
June 14 for a successor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
declared he would run on Saturday, is one of several conservative candidates
known for loyalty to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who decides nuclear
Other declared challengers include pragmatic former President
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, who is close to
Ahmadinejad, the outgoing president.
The final list of candidates will
only emerge around May 23 when Iran's Guardian Council completes its vetting
The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action
if diplomacy and tough trade and energy sanctions fail to induce Iran to suspend
its sensitive nuclear work.
In the latest US measure to try to choke
off funding for the Iranian atomic program, the US Treasury blacklisted an
exchange house and a trading company based in the United Arab Emirates on
Wednesday, saying they had dealt with Iranian banks that Washington has declared
Tehran says its nuclear activity has only peaceful purposes
and that it is Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East's only
nuclear-armed power, that threatens peace and stability.