Iran welcomes Clinton non-deadline on nuclear talks

Iran welcomes Cliton non

Iran said Tuesday it welcomes Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's comments that there is no hard-and-fast deadline for starting nuclear dialogue. On Monday, Clinton said the Obama administration remained open to negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program, though it will move toward tougher sanctions if Iran does not respond positively. She stressed there was no hard-and-fast deadline for Iran. Responding Tuesday, Iran's Foreign Ministry welcomed the comments. "We share the same idea with her. Deadlines are meaningless. We hope other countries return to their natural path, too," said Ramin Mehmanparast, a Foreign Ministry spokesman. Israeli officials, however, said it was necessary to look at the entirety of Clinton's comments. Clinton, at a press conference with visiting Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani in Washington, said that US policy would proceed on two tracks : the engagement track and the pressure track. She said that the results of the US engagement with Iran have "not been encouraging." She said that the US has never set a "deadline" because Washington wanted to keep the door to dialogue open. At the same time, she said, "We've also made it clear we can't continue to wait and we cannot continue to stand by when the Iranians themselves talk about increasing their production of high-enriched uranium and additional facilities for nuclear power that very likely can be put to dual use. "So we have already begun discussions with our partners and with likeminded nations about pressure and sanctions. I can't appropriately comment on the details of those discussions now, except to say that our goal is to pressure the Iranian Government, particularly the Revolutionary Guard elements, without contributing to the suffering of the ordinary [Iranians] who deserve better than what they currently are receiving," she said. One Israeli government official said that this was an indication that the "Americans were moving toward sanctions, and that is a very important message." Iran has dismissed an end-of-2009 deadline imposed by the Obama administration and its international partners to accept a UN-drafted deal to swap most of its enriched uranium for nuclear fuel. The deal would reduce Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium, limiting, at least temporarily, its capability to make nuclear weapons. In her comments Monday, Clinton also said the administration was appalled by the Iranian government's crackdowns on street protests - which she described as "mounting signs of ruthless repression." At least eight people died in clashes between security forces and opposition supporters across Iran late last month, including a nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi. It was the worst bloodshed since the height of the unrest immediately after the contested June re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mehmanparast rejected Clinton's criticism. "Westerners are following those who do not represent the Iranian people," he said. "A mistake that some Western countries commit is that they, with political intentions, are behind those who support chaos and outrages." Iran regularly accuses Western countries - mostly the United States and Britain - of supporting unrest in Teheran. On Sunday the country's intelligence minister said several foreign nationals were among those detained during last month's clashes. Mehmanparast did not elaborate on the nationality of the foreign detainees and said they would be investigated by authorities. "If it is confirmed that they did not have any intention in the event, they will be released," he said. Iran also released a list of 62 international organizations it said were planning a "soft revolution" by supporting the opposition in Iran. The Intelligence Ministry list includes George Soros' Open Society Institute, the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, the Brookings Institution and US National Defense University. The list also includes TV networks like BBC Persian and Voice of America in Farsi, as well as the East European Democratic Center in Poland and the British nonprofit Wilton Park. The ministry said any link with the organizations would be "illegal." Also Tuesday, Iran's state radio said the country's parliament rejected a request by US Senator John Kerry to visit Iran. Herb Keinon contributed to this report.