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Iran calls for talks with U.S.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published February 22, 2007


VIENNA - Iran called Wednesday for talks with the United States - but despite a U.N. Security Council deadline did not budge on council demands that it mothball its uranium enrichment program or face harsher sanctions.

Amid Iran's nuclear defiance, the U.N. nuclear watchdog finalized a report to be released today that is expected to formally confirm the Islamic republic's refusal to freeze enrichment - a conclusion that could subject it to tougher U.N. sanctions.

Officials at the International Atomic Energy Agency said the report by Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the Vienna-based U.N. agency, would say Iran has expanded enrichment efforts instead of freezing them.

Once released, the report will be sent to the agency's 35-nation board and to the Security Council, which set a deadline of Wednesday for a freeze and said Iranian defiance could lead to sanctions in addition to those imposed in December.

In remarks directed at Washington - the key backer of tougher U.N. action - Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Wednesday the dispute "has to be decided peacefully with the United States."

Other Iranian officials used harsher language and none showed signs of compromise.

"The enemy is making a big mistake if it thinks it can thwart the will of the Iranian nation to achieve the peaceful use of nuclear technology," Iranian state TV's Web site quoted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying.

The White House dismissed Ahmadinejad's statements.

"It's pretty clear that the international community has said to the Iranians, 'You can have nuclear power but we don't want you to have the ability to build nuclear weapons,' " White House press secretary Tony Snow said. "And that is an offer we continue to make."

NUCLEAR MATERIAL BAN: India has banned the export to Iran of all material, equipment and technology that could contribute to Tehran's nuclear program, the government said Wednesday. The restrictions bring India, a longtime Iranian ally, into compliance with the U.N. Security Council resolution passed in December that imposed limited sanctions on Tehran for its refusal to stop enriching uranium.