TEHRAN, Iran – Iran's president said Wednesday that his country wants to discuss cooperation to resolve global issues and to promote peace and security at nuclear talks with world powers, but won't talk about what it insists is its right to continue nuclear activities.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke a day after Iran offered to resume nuclear talks this month with six nations — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. The talks collapsed last year and Ahmadinejad's comments raise further questions about whether Iran is willing to reopen the dialogue on its nuclear program.
In Washington, a senior U.S. official said that the U.S. and its allies are willing to discuss a range of issues with Iran, but chief among them is Tehran's nuclear activities.
"Iran's nuclear program is on top of our list but we will come to the meeting prepared for talks on a range of subjects," the U.S. official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the sensitive issue.
The U.S. and its allies suspect Iran's nuclear program is aimed at producing weapons, though Iran denies this and says it only wants to generate power.
The president's remarks were among the many conflicting and ambiguous messages from Iran over the years about its willingness to enter into nuclear negotiations. It has also sent counterproposals and used delaying tactics that have brought talks to an impasse.
Addressing a group of people in Qazvin, in northern Iran, Ahmadinejad said Tehran is ready to discuss "global challenges" and help global peace based on mutual respect but won't discuss its right to continue nuclear activities.
"We've said repeatedly that the Iranian nation will never discuss its basic rights with anybody," Ahmadinejad said. "Iran is ready for talks on equal conditions to cooperate to resolve global issues, ease international concerns and help global peace and security."
Adding to the uncertainty of Iran's offer, different officials suggested different dates: Nov. 15 or 23 or Dec. 5. Iran wants the talks to take place in Istanbul, where it would have its Turkish allies on the sidelines.
Iran says it has a non-negotiable right under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium for producing nuclear fuel.
The international community has sought to persuade Iran to give up enrichment because the technology also offers a potential pathway to weapons development.
"The Iranian nation will welcome any hand extended to it with honesty but will cut the hand if it is with deception and conspiracy," Ahmadinejad said, prompting chants of "Death to the U.S." from the crowd.
Addressing the six nations, he said, "If some of you have the mentality of selfishness and arrogance, the response of the Iranian nation will be the same it has given until today and will disappoint you from the continuation of your life."
"We are ready for talks under these conditions," he added.
Iran has called on the U.S. and its European allies to explain in the talks their position on Israel's nuclear program, which is widely believed to include an undeclared arsenal of weapons. Iranian officials have also sought to discuss what they see as U.S. interference in the Middle East and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ahmadinejad appeared to refer to these demands again on Wednesday.
"We in the past said you must declare your views about some global issues," he said. "If you do, we will discuss them with you on that basis. If not, we will determine the answers for you and will talk to you on the basis of your past behavior."
Iran has ruled out any discussion of a nuclear fuel exchange deal that it balked at last year and which was meant to ensure it could not divert material to nuclear weapons production.
That U.N.-drafted proposal would have at least delayed Iran's ability to potentially go down the weapons path by requiring it to ship nearly all of its stockpile of enriched uranium abroad to be returned as reactor-ready fuel.
Iran refused, but later accepted a similar fuel swap proposal from allies Brazil and Turkey. The six nations, however, said that offer fell short of their demands.
AP Dipolmatic Writer Barry Schweid contributed to this report from Washington D.C.