Iran says it wants serious nuclear talks

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Jan. 13, 2012, 8:55 a.m. |

In this photo released by the Turkish Presidency Press Office, Turkish President Abdullah Gul, right, welcomes Iran's Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, center, before a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012.
© AP

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Iran's parliamentary speaker on Thursday said he believed that the standoff over his country's nuclear program can be solved through serious talks. Ali Larijani told a news conference after meeting Turkish leaders in Ankara that Tehran supports the idea of holding further talks in Turkey. Saeed Jalili, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, recently said he had called on six powers — the U.S, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — to resume talks.

"I believe all issues can be easily solved through negotiations," Larijani told a news conference. "But this time, we want the talks to be serious, it should not be fake."

Also on Thursday, diplomats said a senior U.N. nuclear agency team will visit Tehran on Jan. 28 with Iran saying it is ready after years of refusal to discuss allegations that it was involved in secret nuclear weapons work.

Diplomats have previously said that International Atomic Energy Agency officials were discussing such a trip with their Iranian counterparts. But before the diplomats' comments Thursday, no date — or indication that Iran was ready to talk about the allegations — had been mentioned.

Larijani, meanwhile, blamed Israel for a series of assassinations of its nuclear experts — the latest Wednesday, when scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan was killed by a bomb attached to his car by a passing bicyclist.

"We have a very active young generation of scientists. If Israel thinks it can stop these works by four acts of terror, it is very mistaken," Larijani said.

Turkey, a U.S. ally that relies on Iranian oil and gas imports, signaled Thursday that it will not comply with American sanctions against Iran regarding its nuclear program.

Turkey indicated that it will only enforce sanctions that have been approved by the United Nations, and its announcement is a setback to U.S. sanctions aimed at halting what Western governments say is Iran's effort to develop nuclear weapons.

Those penalties, targeting Iran's oil industry, would bar financial institutions from the U.S. market if they do business with Iran's central bank.

Earlier on Thursday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner secured the support of Japan which pledged to buy less Iranian oil, a day after China reacted coolly to the U.S. effort.

Japan imports about 10 percent of its oil from Iran, while Turkey imports about 30 percent from Iran.

"Turkey does not feel it is bound by any sanctions taken unilaterally or as a group, other than those imposed by the United Nations," Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal told a news conference, which followed a meeting between Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Iran's parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, who visited Turkey earlier this week, said the United States and Turkey share a broad strategic concern about the possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon.

"I think both of our countries agree strongly that this would be a very dangerous and destabilizing development for the entire region," Burns told Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency. "While it is true we sometimes differ over tactics, I think we share that strategic concern, which is very important."

Ankara has agreed to host NATO's early warning radar as part of NATO's missile defense system, which is capable of countering ballistic missile threats from Iran. Turkey insists the shield doesn't target a specific country, but Tehran says the radar is meant to protect Israel from Iranian missile attacks if a war breaks out with the United States and or Israel.

The Jewish state, which views Tehran as a threat, has warned of a possible strike on Iran's nuclear program. Iran, which insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, has threatened to respond to sanctions by shutting the Strait of Hormuz, a transit route for a fifth of the world's oil.

China has criticized U.S. sanctions against Iran, approved by President Barack Obama on New Year's Eve, as improper and ineffective. Beijing supported U.N. sanctions on Iran's nuclear program, but says such action should be multilateral. China, the world's biggest energy consumer, depends on Iran for 11 percent of its oil imports.

Turkey said it would evaluate the content of the U.S. sanctions, but Turkey's biggest crude oil importer Tupras already has renewed a contract to continue to import crude oil from Iran in 2012.

"Right now, our import is continuing and as of today there is no change to our plans," Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said on Thursday.
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