Iran maintained its refusal Sunday to suspend uranium enrichment as the Europeans gave signs that they might be willing to open talks first if Teheran would commit to a freeze soon after the start of negotiations.
"The issue of suspension is a thing of the past. We won't return to the past," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a press conference in Teheran.
"If they (the Europeans) have anything to say about suspension, we are ready to hear them. Talks have to be without any preconditions," he told reporters referring to the requirement for negotiations set by the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany.
Editor's Notes: Gridlock
Asefi made the comment as senior Iranian and European Union officials have reported progress at talks meant to find common ground over Teheran's refusal to freeze uranium enrichment and international demands that it do so or risk UN sanctions.
The EU's top diplomat, Javier Solana, began meetings Saturday in Vienna with Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani. Solana is not authorized to negotiate on behalf of the six powers, but to carry their message and listen to the Iranians. Both sides described talks as constructive.
The discussions have been billed as possibly the last chance for Iran to avoid sanctions for rejecting the UN Security Council's demand that it freeze uranium enrichment, which can be misused to make nuclear arms.