Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said yesterday the Islamic state would not discuss its disputed nuclear program in proposed talks with major powers, state television reported.
His comments will likely further deepen Western scepticism about the chances of a negotiated solution to the long-running stalemate over Iran's nuclear ambitions, which the United States and its European allies fear is a cover to build bombs.
"We have repeatedly said that our (nuclear) rights are not negotiable ... We only hold talks to resolve international problems ... to help the establishment of peace," Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech in central town of Qazvin.
Western diplomats have made clear they want Iran to address their concerns about its nuclear program in talks that the United States, France, Russia, Britain, Germany and China have offered Tehran later this month.
In a letter dated November 9 and seen by Reuters, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, told European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton that he was ready to meet on November 23 or December 5 in Turkey, a Nato member and candidate for European Union membership.
A spokesman for Ashton said she would be discussing the letter with the six world powers, who have given her a mandate to hold talks with Jalili. Talks between Iran and the major powers failed over a year ago, leading to a tightening of international sanctions against Tehran.
David Albright, head of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, said the Iranians were reluctant to enter talks that could lead to restrain its nuclear activity.
"I think they (Iranian leaders) have real hesitancy about having substantive nuclear discussions. They really do resist any negotiations ... that would lead to a discussion of a suspension (of nuclear enrichment) for example," Albright said.
Ahmadinejad said Iran had always been in favour of talks held on a rational and logical basis:
"But the Iranian nation will not let anyone to violate its basic rights ... they should clearly announce their views about some international issues," he said, referring to the major powers.
"Iran welcomes any hand extended with honesty but would cut off any hand extended with deception."
Ahmadinejad had listed conditions for any nuclear talks, including that the parties state their opinion on the reputed nuclear arsenal of Israel, Tehran's arch-enemy that has not ruled out a pre-emptive strike to stop Iran getting the bomb.