Secretary of the country's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Larigani, said on Thursday he welcomed negotiations with all members of the board of governors of the UN's nuclear watchdog agency plus Non Aligned Movement countries.

"There is a serious question in Iran that asks why nuclear negotiations should be limited to just three European countries," state TV quoted Larijani as saying.

He did not single out any other country to join France, Britain and Germany in talks aimed at offering Iran incentives to freeze parts of its nuclear programme, but the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors does include the United States.

Iran has previously courted support for its nuclear programme from various Arab countries including Yemen, which is both a member of the IAEA board and the Non Aligned Movement.

Expanded talks

Another official also called for expanded nuclear talks. Ali Agha Mohammadi, spokesman of the Supreme National Security council, told state-run radio that Iran would continue negotiations with Europe while starting new talks with other countries.

"There is a serious question in Iran that asks why nuclear negotiations should be limited to just three European countries"

Ali Larijani,
Supreme National Security
Council

In an editorial broadcast on Thursday, Iran's state-run radio said Iran needed new negotiating partners because Europe was not capable of concluding a deal by itself.

The comments come the day after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said negotiations were still alive over Iran's nuclear programme, despite his recent criticism of international efforts to curb it.

Iran recently rejected a EU incentives' package and reactivated uranium conversion at its Isfahan nuclear facility, a precursor to uranium enrichment.

US accusations

Enrichment is a process Iran froze last November that can be used in the production of atomic bombs. Iran says its nuclear programme is peaceful despite US claims to the contrary.

Ahmadinejad has also promised to offer new proposals for negotiations with the three European states over the nuclear programme after the EU's cancellation of a 31 August meeting because of the resumption of uranium conversion.

"We want to continue talks with all. We will continue dialogue," Ahmadinejad said on state-run television, adding that he had instructed the Supreme National Security Council, the country's top security decision-making body, to draw up a new set of proposals over Iran's enrichment programme.

Ahmadinejad is in favour of a
dialogue with all countries

Ahmadinejad did not say if that included the US, which Iran says has no role as long as Washington continues what Iran calls a hostile approach.

President Bush recently said "all options" were available to the US to deal with Iran in light of its resumption of nuclear activities.

But the Iranian leader's remarks suggest he wants to launch a new dialogue in hopes of persuading Europe to recognise Iran's right to enrich uranium.

France has also said continued talks are possible over the programme, while a diplomat close to the IAEA said the UN agency was making progress in attempts to revisit a restricted Iranian military site that Washington said might be used for tests linked to nuclear weapons.