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Iran's Ahmadinejad, at UN, has much to say, but will there be talks?

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on the world stage again at the UN, says Iran is ready for a dialogue on its nuclear program, but Western powers say they have received no formal response from Iranian officials on when the talks would start.

By Staff writer / September 22, 2010

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks at the Millennium Development Goals Summit at the UN headquarters in New York, on Sept. 21.

Richard Drew/AP

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United Nations, N.Y.

With Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his annual media blitz of New York, the question global powers have for him is: talks or no talks?

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The blustery Mr. Ahmadinejad continues to insist, as he has this week in the margins of this year’s United Nations General Assembly meetings, that Iran is ready to return to dialogue with international leaders on its nuclear program.

But Western powers, which have queried the Iranians about a return to talks through the offices of the European Union (EU), say the only response they’ve had to their invitation is silence.

On Wednesday, foreign ministers of the UN’s five permanent Security Council members plus Germany – the group of countries that is seeking a negotiated solution to conflict over Iran’s advancing uranium enrichment program – held out hope for a return to talks this fall. But they could report no formal response from the Iranians on when the dialogue might resume.

“It shouldn’t be that hard to fix the date for a meeting,” said a senior Obama administration official who sat in on the ministers’ hour-long meeting. “We are committed to a diplomatic solution,” the official added, “it remains to be seen if the Iranians are.”

The two sides have been in a stand-off since October 2009, when the Iranian leadership balked at a nuclear fuel-swap deal their own negotiators had reached with the international representatives.

Westerns powers suspect Iran of pursuing uranium enrichment with the aim of producing a nuclear weapon. Iran insists its program has only peaceful designs.

The ministers, representing the group of countries known as the P5 plus 1 – the US, China, Russia, France, the UK, and Germany – decided to have the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Catherine Ashton, relaunch her effort from this summer to pin down the Iranians on their stated openness to resuming a dialogue. British officials in New York for the UN meetings are also expected to meet with the Iranian delegation and gauge the prospects for talks.

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