Iran Nuclear Negotiator Says Country Is 'Serious' About Negotiations

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Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said Thursday his country remains "serious" about continuing negotiations to defuse the international standoff over Iran's nuclear program, which the West fears could be used to make weapons.

Larijani made the comments at the start of an informal working dinner with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

"We are serious about the continued negotiations," Larijani told reporters, adding that formal talks would be held next Tuesday.

Solana said he was "looking to get this process going, it is going to be beneficial for both" sides.

CountryWatch: Iran

Formal talks crucial to helping end the standoff with Tehran were postponed until next Tuesday, officials said, adding that the two would hold a working dinner "to get the first response from the Iranians to the international offer," Solana's spokeswoman Cristina Gallach said.

Iran has been offered a package — which includes incentives such as nuclear expertise and reactors — and calls on Iran to suspend enrichment for the duration of any negotiations to set out the priority of a long-term moratorium of such activity until the international community is convinced that Iran's nuclear aims are peaceful.

Western diplomats have threatened to restart efforts to punish Iran through possible U.N. Security Council sanctions unless Tehran stops enrichment and agrees to talks by July 12, when foreign ministers of the five permanent Security Council nations and Germany consult in Paris.

Tehran has asserted repeatedly that its nuclear program, which includes uranium enrichment, is peaceful and aimed at generating power. But the U.S., Israel and the EU fear the research program is a cover for the development of nuclear weapons.