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. If US has new approach, Iran would respond: Ahmadinejad
WASHINGTON, July 28 (AFP) Jul 28, 2008
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in an interview aired on US television Monday that if the United States adopted a genuinely new approach to his country Tehran would respond in a positive way.

"Today, we see new behavior shown by the United States and the officials of the United States. My question is, is such behavior rooted in a new approach?" the president told NBC in a rare interview with a US broadcaster.

"In other words, mutual respect, cooperation and justice? Or is this approach a continuation in the confrontation with the Iranian people, but in a new guise?" he said from Tehran, speaking through an interpreter.

If US behavior represented a genuine change, "we will be facing a new situation and the response by the Iranian people will be a positive one," Ahmadinejad said in an excerpt of the interview, conducted in the presidential compound.

Ahmadinejad's comments, which will be aired in full later Monday, came after the United States took the unprecedented step of sending a top diplomat to meet Iran's chief negotiator at talks in Geneva over Tehran's disputed nuclear program.

The interview also follows Ahmadinejad's announcement Saturday that Iran had boosted the number of uranium-enriching centrifuges to 6,000, in an expansion of its nuclear drive that defies international calls for a freeze.

Iran faces three sets of UN Security Council sanctions over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, which makes nuclear fuel as well as the fissile core of an atomic bomb.

Ahmadinejad reiterated in the interview Tehran was not working to build nuclear weapons, according to a partial transcript.

"We are not working to manufacture a bomb. We don't believe in a nuclear bomb," he said when asked if Iran sought to be a nuclear power.

History has shown that possessing nuclear weapons did not help other countries with their political goals, he added.

"Nuclear bombs belong to the 20th century. We are living in a new century."

World powers, concerned Tehran is pursuing a clandestine nuclear weapons project, have offered to start pre-negotiations during which Tehran would face no further sanctions if it added no more uranium-enriching centrifuges.

Iran was given a two-week deadline to respond that expires on Saturday.

Ahmadinejad said he hoped the negotiations would yield progress with both sides finding "common ground" in competing proposals.

When asked about the proposal from Western powers that offers improved trade terms and other incentives, Ahmadinejad said Iran was a "mighty country" and not at all isolated.

"Well, the world -- the doors, rather, of the larger world are not closed to us," he said.

"For the continuation of our lives and for progress, we do not need the services, if I can use the word, of a few countries."

The United States has warned Tehran of "punitive measures" if it spurns the offer and presses on with enrichment.

Despite Ahmadinejad's relatively moderate tone, the State Department said it was looking out for a clear, official statement of policy ahead of Saturday's deadline.

"We are waiting what we believe to be a definitive statement from the government of Iran, we are looking for it to come through the traditional channel," State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said.

"And then, it will be reviewed and then, we will decide where we will be going from there," he told reporters.

Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons, insisting that its program is designed to provide energy for its growing population once the country's extensive reserves of fossil fuels run out.

Permanent UN Security Council members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany have made Iran an offer, which includes trade incentives and help with a civilian nuclear program in return for suspending enrichment.

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