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    Iran ready to consider direct nuclear talks with U.S. - official -1

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    Iran is prepared to consider the UN nuclear watchdog's proposal to hold direct talks with the United States on its controversial uranium enrichment program, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said.

    (Recasts, adds additional information in paras 2-5)

    TEHRAN, July 15 (RIA Novosti) - Iran is prepared to consider the UN nuclear watchdog's proposal to hold direct talks with the United States on its controversial uranium enrichment program, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said.

    Iran has been at the center of international concerns over its uranium enrichment program, which some countries, particularly the United States, suspect is geared toward nuclear weapons development. Tehran has consistently denied the claims, saying it needs nuclear power for civilian purposes.

    "The proposal by Mohamed El-Baradei [head of the International Atomic Energy Agency] needs to be studied closely. Possibly, the parties will discuss the proposal in the course of future negotiations," Hosseini said.

    The Iranian diplomat said the initiative by the UN nuclear watchdog agency could be discussed at Tehran's talks with the agency's representatives in Vienna on July 25-26.

    Iran currently faces more stringent international sanctions after failing to halt uranium enrichment by the May 24 deadline set by the UN Security Council.

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