Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday that Iran is ready to discuss "mutual concerns" over its controversial nuclear program but claimed that the West has given in to the will of the Iranian nation.
Ahmadinejad did not say whether Iran accepts or rejects a Western proposal for resuming negotiations that demands that Tehran suspend uranium enrichment in return for a package of incentives.
"On behalf of the Iranian nation, I'm announcing that the Iranian nation will never hold negotiations about its definite rights with anybody, but we are for talks about mutual concerns to resolve misunderstandings in the international arena," Ahmadinejad told thousands of people in Qazvin, west of the capital Tehran.
On Wednesday, world powers had compromised on a demand that Iran commit to a long-term moratorium on uranium enrichment and were asking only for suspension during talks on Teheran's nuclear program, diplomats said Wednesday.
In another concession, Iran would be allowed to carry out uranium conversion - a precursor to enrichment - if it agreed to multination talks, the diplomats said. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to divulge the contents of the offer made by six countries to Teheran Tuesday in a bid to defuse the Iranian nuclear standoff.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana who formally presented the offer to Iranian officials this week - said Wednesday that the issue of enrichment would have to be reassessed once talks were completed.
"In principle ... they will have to stop now, we will have to negotiate with no process of enrichment in place," he told reporters in the German city of Potsdam. "After the finalization of the negotiations we will see what happens."
Such changes to long-standing international demands on enrichment are important because they signal possible readiness to accept some limited form of the activity, despite fears that it can be misused to make the fissile core of nuclear warheads.
Since talks between key European nations and Iran broke off in August, the public stance by the European negotiators and the United States has been that Iran must commit to a long-term moratorium on enrichment to establish confidence as a precondition for talks on the nuclear standoff.
Diplomats have told the AP that Germany - which participated in drawing up the six-nation package of perks and punishments meant to ultimately persuade Iran to stop enriching uranium - has been advocating that Teheran be allowed such activity on a small scale.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, has backed that view, arguing that with Iran already successful in small-scale enrichment, it was unlikely to give up its right to such activities.