Iran's president on Sunday endorsed the idea of new talks with the international community over his country's nuclear program, while warning that negotiations would fail if the West does not clearly come out against Israel's suspected nuclear arsenal.
The talks foundered a year ago, and months later, the U.N. imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment _ a program the West is concerned masks Iranian ambitions for making nuclear weapons.
Iran denies the charge and says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes. It insists it wants to enrich uranium only to make fuel for a planned reactor network and denies accusations that it will use the program to make fissile warhead material.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran is ready to resume the talks and added that the West had made the first step.
"They have come and said, 'We will negotiate,'" Ahmadinejad told a crowd of supporters in the northwestern city of Ardebil, about 370 miles (600 kilometers) northwest of Tehran. "We say, 'All right, we will negotiate with you.'"
He gave no timeframe for the talks.
The European Union's foreign affairs and security chief, Catherine Ashton, suggested Thursday the talks be held in Vienna over three days in mid-November, with the participation of the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany.
Ashton issued the statement soon after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Brussels.
In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said it was up to Iran to set a date.
"Iran says it is ready to talk," Crowley said. "Now it needs to commit to a date. Iran knows the phone number. We are awaiting Iran's formal response."
At the rally in Ardebil, Ahmadinejad warned the talks would not make progress unless the West clarifies its stance over the nuclear arsenal that Israel is widely believed to posses _ an apparent attempt to deflect attention from Iran's nuclear program.
If this doesn't happen, the West will show it "supports the Zionist regime's atomic bomb and is not seeking to have a friendship (with Iran) through the talks," Ahmadinejad added.
Israel has never confirmed or denied it has nuclear weapons. As Iran's archenemy, the Jewish state fears it will be targeted by Iran and Ahmadinejad has repeatedly made references to Israel's destruction.
"If you choose this path, your achievement in the talks will be the same as before," Ahmadinejad said, addressing the international community. "You will not gain an iota more."