Iran has voiced its readiness to hold talks with the United States under "fair and suitable" conditions, the official IRNA news agency reported on Monday.
"We have no problems in holding negotiations," Iranian government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham told a weekly press briefing while commenting on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent remarks that Tehran was ready to hold talks with Washington under "fair and suitable" conditions.
"We are ready to help resolve global issues, restore peace in the Middle East and help Iraqi nation get rid of US tyranny," Elham said, adding that Washington "needs to hold talks with Iran."
In Sunday's interview with Al-Arabiya television, one of the main Arab satellite channels, Ahmadinejad said that Tehran is not against talks with the United States if just and proper conditions are provided.
According to IRNA's report, Ahmadinejad, who is currently on a tour to the Latin America, also said that the United States is "fully mistaken" to think that it will be able to ignore or jeopardize rights of the Iraqi people through talks with Iran, Syria or Saudi Arabia.
Instead, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other neighbors of Iraq can help the Iraqi people to manage their own affairs and to strengthen security and state sovereignty, Ahmadinejad said.
Also on Monday, Elham said that the country was pushing ahead with its plan to install at least 3,000 centrifuges for nuclear fuel production.
"Our plan is moving ahead and in the process of completion. We will announce it during the Ten-Day Dawn festival," Elham said, referring the celebration held on Feb. 1-10 every year to mark the victory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Iranian officials have said that Iran plans to install 3,000 centrifuges for uranium enrichment at a plant in Natanz in centralIran by the end of the current Iranian year, which ends on March 20.
According to Iran's announced plan, it will eventually have 60,000 centrifuges for uranium enrichment. The country also has an ambitious plan to build 20 nuclear power plants.
Meanwhile, the new US Defense Secretary Robert Gates was tough on Iran on Monday, indicating that it is not the right time to engage with the Islamic republic.
"The Iranians are acting in a very negative way in many respects," he told reporters after a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in Brussels.
"The opportunity is there for engagement. But I would say the initiative rests with the Iranians."
In reference of a recent decision to deploy ballistic missiles and a second aircraft carrier in the Gulf region, Gates said the deployment was reaffirmation of the importance of the region to the United States and that his country would have military presence in the area for a long time to come.
"We are simply reaffirming that statement of the importance of the Gulf region to the United States and our determination to be an ongoing strong presence in that area for a long time in the future," he said.
Stability in the Gulf region is in "long-term, strategic, vital interests" of the United States, he added.
(Xinhua News Agency January 16, 2007)