TEHRAN, Iran – The official Iranian news agency Wednesday said the American offer to join in direct talks with Iran about its disputed nuclear program was "a propaganda move."
The U.S. proposal, a major policy shift after decades without official public contact between the two countries, was made conditional on Iran agreeing to stop its uranium enrichment activities.
"It's evident that the Islamic Republic of Iran only accepts proposals and conditions that meet the interests of the nation and the country. Halting enrichment definitely doesn't meet such interests," IRNA said at the end of a dispatch reporting the offer of talks by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"Given the insistence by Iranian authorities on continuing uranium enrichment, Rice's comments can be considered a propaganda move," IRNA said.
Earlier Wednesday, an Iranian lawmaker said the U.S. offer for direct talks must be conducted without preconditions, Iran's Student News Agency reported.
Kazem Jalali, spokesman for Parliament's Foreign Policy and National Security Committee, said the U.S. move might be viewed positively in Tehran if preconditions were dropped.
"The U.S. offer for talks can be considered positive but the precondition set by the U.S. is not appropriate," Jalali was quoted as saying. He does not speak for the government.
"The Islamic Republic has announced repeatedly that suspension of uranium enrichment is not on Iran's agenda," said Jalali, however, forecasting IRNA's apparent rejection of the offer.
IRNA, however, quoted Jalali as saying Tehran remained interested in talks with Russia, which has offered to enrich uranium for Tehran on Russian soil to overcome international concerns that Iran wants to build a nuclear weapon.
Those talks have been fitful and over several months have led to no agreement.
"Stressing that Iran-Russia talks should increase, he said that during such talks ways of ending the current challenges may be found," IRNA quoted Jalali as saying in the halls of parliament.
It said Jalali had stressed "Iran's right to access nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and said that Iran will stress its relevant right in holding talks with any country."
Russia is building a nuclear power generating plant for the Iranians at Bushehr and IRNA quoted Jalali as saying, "We need to continue exchange of views to complete this project," he added.
Rice told a news conference Wednesday that the United States was prepared to join other nations in direct talks with Iran if it agreed to stop uranium enrichment, a process the West fears could lead to a bomb.
"To underscore our commitment to a diplomatic solution and to enhance prospects for success, as soon as Iran fully and verifiably suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities, the United States will come to the table," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said at the State Department.
Asked whether the United States would be willing to re-establish diplomatic relations with Iran, she ruled out a "grand bargain." However, Rice said a negotiated solution to the nuclear dispute could "begin to change the relationship."
"We urge Iran to make this choice for peace, to abandon its ambition for nuclear weapons," she said. At the same time, Rice acknowledged Iran has a right to civil nuclear energy.