Iran Calls for New Nuclear Talks, Delays Missile Test

Posted December 31st, 2011 at 4:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Iran has proposed a new round of talks with the West on its controversial nuclear program and delayed long-range missiles tests that it had said would take place Saturday.

The state-run IRNA news agency quoted Iran's National Security Adviser Saeed Jalili as saying he invited the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany to “come back to talks.” The agency said Iran's ambassador to Germany would present the proposal to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The P5+1 last met with Iran in January, but the negotiations ended with no agreement. At the time, Jalili said Tehran would maintain its right to nuclear technology, including uranium enrichment.

The fresh diplomatic efforts follow Iranian threats to close the Strait of Hormuz if the West imposes sanctions aimed at boycotting its oil exports. The U.S. countered with a promise to keep the strait open.

Iran also appeared to have backed down Saturday from an earlier announcement to test-fire long-range missiles during its ongoing 10-day naval exercises in the region of the Persian Gulf. Initial reports indicated that Tehran had launched the missiles, but a naval spokesman later denied the reports.

Rear Admiral Mahmoud Mousavi called the maneuvers “a mostly defensive action.” He said the exercises in the region of the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean are aimed at keeping the vital Strait of Hormuz open.

The developments have come at a time of heightened tensions between Iran and some Western powers, which

accuse Tehran of pursuing nuclear technology to make atomic weapons. Iran says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful.

Meanwhile, reports in the Arab media indicate the U.S. aircraft carrier John C. Stennis had entered the Persian Gulf and was observing the Iranian maneuvers from a distance. The Strait of Hormuz is an international waterway and closing it would constitute an act of war.