TEHRAN, Iran – Iran's top nuclear negotiator called for more countries to join the three European states engaged in talks about Tehran's contentious nuclear program, state-run television reported Thursday.
Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (search), said he welcomed negotiations with all members of the board of governors of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency plus countries from the 116-member Non-Aligned Movement (search).
"There is a serious question in Iran that asks why nuclear negotiations should be limited to just three European countries," state TV quoted Larijani as saying.
He did not single out any other countries to join France, Britain and Germany in talks aimed at offering Iran incentives to freeze parts of its nuclear program, but the International Atomic Energy Agency's (search) board of governors does include the United States.
Iran has previously courted support for its nuclear program from various Arab countries including Yemen, which is both a member of the IAEA board and the Non-Aligned Movement.
Larijani's call for expanded nuclear talks was echoed by Ali Agha Mohammadi, spokesman of Supreme National Security Council, who told state-run radio that Iran would continue negotiations with Europe while starting new talks with other countries.
In an editorial broadcast Thursday, state-run radio said Iran needed new negotiating partners because Europe was not capable of concluding a deal by itself.
The comments come the day after ultraconservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (search) said negotiations were still alive over Iran's nuclear program, despite his recent criticism of international efforts to curb it.
Iran recently rejected an EU incentives package and reactivated uranium conversion at its Isfahan nuclear facility, a precursor to uranium enrichment.
Enrichment is a process Iran froze in November that can be used in the production of atomic bombs. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful despite U.S. claims to the contrary.
Ahmadinejad has also promised to offer new proposals for negotiations with the three European states over the nuclear program following the EU's cancellation of an Aug. 31 meeting because of the resumption of uranium conversion.
"We want to continue talks with all. We will continue dialogue," Ahmadinejad said on state-run television, adding that he had instructed the Supreme National Security Council, the country's top security decision-making body, to draw up a new set of proposals over Iran's enrichment program.
Ahmadinejad didn't say if that included the United States, which Iran has seen no role for as long as Washington continues what Iran calls a hostile approach. President Bush recently said "all options" were available to the U.S. to deal with Iran in light of its resumption of nuclear activities.
But the Iranian leader's remarks suggest he wants to launch a new dialogue in hopes of persuading Europe to recognize Iran's right to enrich uranium.
France also has said continued talks are possible over the program, while the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog says it is making progress in attempts to revisit a restricted Iranian military site that Washington says may be used for tests linked to nuclear weapons.