Iran says it is open to negotiations with the US on Iraq and other regional issues but hinted it would not drop its refusal to talk about its nuclear program.
As the UN Security Council geared up for a protracted debate on sanctioning Iran over its nuclear program, Tehran praised Russia for its "softer" stance on the issue.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said on Sunday that Iran would consider talks with the US over regional issues, including Iraq, if Washington requested.
He would not elaborate, and there was no immediate response from the US on the offer.
"If there is any official request about regional issues, we are ready to review it," Hosseini told reporters.
However, he said Iran would not change its position regarding bilateral relations with the US, suggesting Tehran would refuse to talk about the nuclear issue. The US has demanded Iran stop enriching uranium as a precondition to talks about its program.
The US said in May it wanted to hold direct talks with Iran about Iraq -- which would have been the most public exchanges by the countries in years.
Tehran agreed, and US and Iranian officials said at the time that the talks would focus on the situation in Iraq, not on broader subjects such as Iran's nuclear program.
However, Iran then changed its mind, with Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki rejecting the negotiation on grounds that Americans had raised "other issues" and had tried to use the decision to hold the talks as propaganda.
Iran's statement on Sunday seemed to indicate the government was once again willing to consider the idea of direct talks with the US over Iraq, which is veering ever closer to civil war. US officials have accused Iran of interfering in Iraq since the overthrow of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in 2003.
But US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has also said the White House believes Tehran has a role to play in stabilizing Iraq, whose government is dominated by Shiite Muslims like Iran's.
Some Western experts believe Iran is genuinely worried about civil conflict in Iraq and its potential to spill over, although others say Iranian hardliners may have an interest in causing at least some turmoil. Iranian leaders are believed to have close links to some Iraqi leaders and clerics.
Meanwhile, state-run radio said on Sunday the International Atomic Energy Agency officials inspected Iran's nuclear facilities in Isfahan and Natanz including a new enrichment cascade. The inspection was the first since Tehran announced it had successfully stepped up its uranium enrichment activities last month.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable
SURGE CONTINUES: India recorded its steepest spike of more than 57,000 new virus cases in 24 hours, as Vietnam went from no virus deaths to reporting three South Korean prosecutors yesterday arrested the elderly leader of a secretive religious sect as part of an investigation into allegations that the church hampered the government’s COVID-19 response after thousands of worshipers were infected in February and March. Prosecutors in the central city of Suwon have been questioning 88-year-old Lee Man-hee, chairman of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, over charges that the church hid some members and underreported gatherings to avoid broader quarantines. The Suwon District Court granted prosecutors’ request to arrest Lee over concerns that he could temper with evidence. Lee and his church have steadfastly denied the accusations, saying they are