Iran ready for 'comprehensive' talks, but not on nuclear issue

Iran's new proposal for talks with the West promises wide-ranging negotiations but does not provide details of the country's disputed nuclear programme, according to a copy of the document published by an investigative group.

The five-page proposal, published online by New York-based ProPublica, says Tehran is ready to "embark on comprehensive, all-encompassing and constructive negotiations".

ProPublica did not say how it obtained the proposal.

A Western diplomat familiar with the Iranian nuclear file said the document published on ProPublica was authentic. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Iran insists its atomic programme is peaceful and geared solely toward generating electricity. The United States and key allies contend it is covertly trying to build a nuclear weapon.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki handed his country's proposals for new talks to the ambassadors of Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany - and to the Swiss ambassador, who represents US interests.

The proposal says Iran is prepared to enter into dialogue and negotiation in order to lay the ground for lasting peace. It lists a wide range of issues for discussion, including disarmament, trade and investment, fighting terrorism and protecting human dignity.

US officials said yesterday that the proposal falls well short of satisfying international demands that Iran detail its nuclear program.

On Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his country will neither halt uranium enrichment nor negotiate over its nuclear rights but is ready to sit and talk with world powers over "global challenges".

The document said: "The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that within the framework of principles of justice, democracy and multilateralism, a wide range of security, political, economic and cultural issues at regional and global levels could be included in these negotiations with a view of fostering constructive cooperation for advancement of nations and promotion of peace and stability in the region and the world."

The US and European allies have given Iran until the end of September to take up an offer of nuclear talks with six world powers and trade incentives should it suspend uranium enrichment activities.

It has already defied three sets of UN Security Council sanctions since 2006 for its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment.

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