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. Iran says open to dialogue on nuclear stand-off
ISTANBUL, Aug 14 (AFP) Aug 14, 2008
Iran is open to dialogue to resolve the standoff on its controversial nuclear programme, but will not give up its right to possess atomic energy, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday.

"We believe that dialogue is the best way to resolve the issue and we are always ready for dialogue," Ahmadinejad told reporters here after talks with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul.

But negotiations had to take into account Iran's right to develop nuclear energy technology, he added.

"Those who do not respect that will lose themselves. There will be no change in the will of the Iranian people," said Ahmadinejad.

Western powers suspect Tehran's nuclear programme are a cover for the development of the atomic bomb, but Ahmadinejad said the allegations were a reflection of Washington's "ill will" towards Tehran.

Iran is risking a possible fourth round of UN sanctions after it failed to give a clear response to an incentives package offered by six major world powers in return for halting its uranium enrichment activities.

Earlier this week, Iran said it was ready to hold more talks with the European Union on the package offered by Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator met with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, in Geneva in July. They also spoke on the phone earlier this month.

"The talks in Geneva were positive... and we believe that a positive direction was found," Ahmadinejad said.

He called for future talks to see the two parties discussing common points in the package proposed by the six powers and Tehran's own proposals.

"We believe it will be reasonable to discuss the common issues in those packages and reach a compromise. This could pave the way for resolving the disputed issues," he said.

Gul, for his part, stressed that the incentive package offered to Iran was "a new and very important window of opportunity" for a peaceful solution.

"We expect the negotiation process to continue with the good will of all parties... and reach a positive outcome in a short time," Gul said, pledging Turkey's assistance to help the negotiations.

Turkey, which has significantly improved relations with Iran in recent years, believes it can help resolve the crisis through its close ties with both its eastern neighbour and Western powers.

Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said last month that Ankara was taking on a role "of consolidating and facilitating" the talks rather than formal mediation.

Ankara, which itself is seeking to build its first nuclear power plant, says Tehran has the right to possess nuclear power for peaceful purposes, but opposes nuclear weapons in the region.

Ahmadinejad's visit drew the ire of Turkey's main regional ally Israel which warned Ankara last week against "giving legitimacy" to a leader who has called for the destruction of the Jewish state.

Gul and Ahmadinejad expressed concern over the conflict between Georgia and Russia and urged dialogue to end the tensions.

They also voiced support for boosting commercial ties and doubling the bilateral trade volume, expected to reach 10 billion in the end of 2008, in four years.

A joint declaration also said the Turkish and Iranian energy ministries would continue to pursue a series of projects in the fields of natural gas and power production, without mentioning timeframes.

Last year, Ankara signed a preliminary deal with Tehran to carry gas from Iran and Turkmenistan to Europe and develop three gas fields in Iran.

But the agreement has not been finalised so far amid US criticism of its NATO ally's intention to invest in Iran.

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