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[Published: Saturday August 02 2008]

Iran open to nuclear talks, Ahmadinejad

Teheran, 3 Aug-(ANA)-Iran is serious about nuclear talks, PresidentMahmoud Ahmadinejad has said - one day after saying he would not retreat"one iota" on the issue.

The Iranian leader was speaking after a two-day meeting with SyrianPresident Bashar al-Assad - who had earlier promised to use his ties with Iranto help resolve Tehran's nuclear stand-off with the West.

But Mr Assad told a news conference: "I am not a mediator nor anemissary, and was not asked to deliver any message by any Westernofficial."

He said the nuclear issue had featured in their meeting, but gave no furtherdetails.

Tehran has claimed consistently that its nuclear programme is for peacefulpurposes, but the US and its allies believe it could be used to develop anuclear weapon.

Mr Ahmadinejad told the televised press conference: "We are serious intalks and we want the talks to be based on the law so it will bear practicalresults.

"We hope that other sides are serious too."

Iran was set the informal deadline to agree to suspend its uraniumenrichment after its chief nuclear negotiator met officials from the UN, EU andthe US in Geneva on 19 July.

In return, the international powers said they would impose no furthersanctions on the country.

But Iran has made no public response to the offer - and officials werequoted on Saturday denying that any such timeline had been agreed.

Analysts say the Iranian government may appear to be pressing aheadregardless with its nuclear programme, but it must also be worried that it isfacing steadily-growing international isolation. (ANA)

FA/ANA/3 August 2008---

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