UNITED NATIONS – Iran is willing to provide nuclear technology to other Muslim states, Iran's hard-line president said Thursday. Hours later, European nations renewed an offer of economic incentives if the Mideast nation would halt its uranium enrichment (search).
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (search) made the comment after talking with Turkey's prime minister during a gathering of world leaders at the United Nations, Iran's state-run Islamic Republic News Agency said.
Ahmadinejad repeated promises that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons, the report said. Then he added: "Iran is ready to transfer nuclear know-how to the Islamic countries due to their need."
At the United Nations (search), foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany — the three European countries negotiating with Iran on behalf of the European Union — said Ahmadinejad was expected to respond to the renewed offer in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Saturday.
The European announcement came after the troika of ministers met with Ahmedinejad and his team as well as U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan (search).
"We put forth proposals. They are still on the table," British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said after the 80-minute meeting. "They have yet properly to be considered by the other side."
Straw said the Iranian leader would make his country's proposals in a speech to the General Assembly. He said Ahmedinejad did not indicate in their meeting whether Iran would halt uranium enrichment.
German Foreign Minister Joshcka Fischer said they "discussed into the details the situation" with Ahmedinejad and his team and repeated the EU position. The EU is now waiting for the Iranian president's speech.
"Hopefully, we will have a positive direction but I can't predict that," he said.
After the earlier meeting with the Iranian foreign minister, Fischer said the European troika "underlined that our position is on the table, our position is unchanged."
The U.N. spokesman, reporting on the president's meeting with Annan, said there were "cordial discussions on the need to continue the negotiations on the nuclear issue in search of a mutually agreed solution." A statement said Ahmedinejad reaffirmed his intention to put forward new proposals in his General Assembly speech on Saturday.
The U.S. State Department expressed concern about Ahmedinejad's reported proposal on transferring nuclear technology, saying it makes it more vital that other countries work in concert to stop the Iranian threat.
The EU-Iranian meetings took place amid growing opposition from countries to referring the Iran nuclear dispute to the U.N. Security Council.
The United States, which suspects Iran may be seeking to develop nuclear weapons, and European countries warned last week that Tehran is running out of time to freeze uranium processing activities or face referral to the Security Council.
But Tehran, which says its nuclear program is for peaceful energy production, has rejected the threat and has warned the United Nations not to go down that road. On Sunday, Mottaki said his country wants to continue dialogue with Europe without preconditions.
Diplomats and officials said in Vienna that due to opposition by veto-wielding Security Council members Russia and China, as well as by India, Pakistan and other key nations, Washington and the EU were reluctantly weighing less severe options for Monday's board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency. They spoke on condition of anonymity.
France, Britain and Germany, together with the European Union, have sought for two years to persuade Iran to give up some nuclear activities that can be used to make weapons, but negotiations broke down over the summer and it ended an agreement reached in Paris.
Since then, Iran has resumed activities related to uranium enrichment after rejecting a European package of proposals that had called on Iran to permanently stop its uranium enrichment program in return for a supply of nuclear fuel and economic incentives.
Straw pointed out that the meetings Thursday were the first with the Iranian side since the election of Ahmedinejad in June.
Asked whether the Europeans were losing ground in the negotiations, Straw replied: "What we're doing is talking and that is always better than not talking. There is a new government. They wish to explain their position."
France's foreign minister called the discussions a significant moment.
"We had a very frank discussion, which allows me to explain what I've been saying from the very beginning so as to avoid a crisis and to be able to speak in full confidence," Philippe Douste-Blazy said.