VIENNA -- Iran wants a new round of talks with six world powers to focus on a host of issues including its rights as a nation, and even high-seas piracy, instead of international fears that it's building a nuclear bomb, according to confidential letters obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.
The correspondence appeared certain to strengthen Western concerns that Iran is drawing out years of negotiations with procedural delays and rhetorical debates in order to gain time to enrich enough uranium to build a bomb -- an intention Iran denies.
Iranian state televison channel said Tuesday that the government had accepted a proposal by the European Union on behalf of six powers for a new meeting and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said it would be held in Istanbul. But the EU said no such plans had been made.
"We are surprised to hear the Iranians talking about meetings," said EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic Wednesday. "On its own, Dr. Jalili's letter does not contain anything new and does not justify a further meeting."
The last session in January ended in failure, and the correspondence between top EU foreign official Catherine Ashton and chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili provides little cause for optimism.
Ashton's Feb. 11 letter says new talks need to focus on reducing fears about Iran's nuclear ambitions, Jalili's May 8 response evades that request. Instead, it urges "respect for democracy and the rights of the people" as the basis for new negotiations.
Low-enriched uranium can be used to fuel a reactor to generate electricity, which Iran says is the intention of its growing uranium enrichment program. But if uranium is further enriched to around 90 percent purity, it can be used to develop a nuclear warhead.
British and U.S. government officials both said that Iran should be ready for serious nuclear negotiations if talks are to resume.
"Our bottom line is that we believe Iran needs to come prepared for serious discussions if they take place," said U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner.
Ashton's letter to Jalili says a negotiated solution would need to "restore confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of your nuclear programme. And it says that Tehran's preconditions -- that its right to enrich be recognized and that U.N. sanctions be lifted "are not acceptable to us."
In his response, Jalili suggests big power intransigence is the reason for the deadlock.
"Accepting the legitimate requests of the nations and refraining from conducts based on supremacy are the only way out of the current self-created stalemate," his letter says.
Sidestepping the main big-power demand -- substantive talks on enrichment -- Jalili says issues could focus on "combating the root cause of terrorism, drug trafficking, piracy in the high seas." It lists nuclear issues such as disarmament.