President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last night that Iran was ready to sit down with world powers for talks on its nuclear program, as he brushed off the harmful effect of newly imposed sanctions.

“They have this excuse that Iran is dodging negotiations while it is not the case,” the Iranian leader was quoted as saying by state media.

“Why should we run away from the negotiations?”

Mr Ahmadinejad was implicitly responding to comments made by Western officials urging the Islamic republic to return to negotiations over its contested nuclear program.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the previous day that the union had invited Iran “to pick up the issues which were left on the table in Istanbul a year ago”.

The last round of talks between Iran and the major powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US — was held in Turkey last January, but they collapsed.

Mr Ahmadinejad also played down the effect of the newly imposed Western sanctions, saying they would not hurt his nation.

“Once our trade with Europe was around 90 per cent but now it has reached 10 per cent and we are not seeking this 10 per cent . . . Experience has shown the Iranian nation will not be hurt,” he said.

“For the past 30 years the Americans have not been buying oil from us. Our central bank has no relations with you.”

The EU this week slapped an embargo on Iranian oil exports to ramp up pressure over the country’s nuclear drive.

AFP

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