Manouchehr Mottaki, in response to a US offer of talks if Iran suspended enrichment activities, said on Thursday: "We will not give up our nation's natural right [to enrichment], we will not hold talks over it. But we are ready to hold talks over mutual concerns.

"Iran supports fair talks without discrimination."

However, he said that Washington had to change its behaviour if it wanted better relations with Iran.

In a policy shift, the United States said on Wednesday that it would join European governments in direct nuclear talks with Iran if it suspended its uranium enrichment, which Western powers believe is aimed at developing an atomic bomb.

The offer was announced by Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, before major powers were to meet on Thursday in Vienna to discuss Iran's nuclear activities.

"Rice's statement was not something new. This is what was said in her previous speeches and interviews. It lacked a logical and new solution to resolve Iran's nuclear issue," Mottaki said.

"It [Rice's announcement] was like a piece of literature and ... was aimed at covering up their failure in Iraq and other parts of the world."

One analyst interpreted the Iranian statements as a call for talks without conditions.

Masha Allah Shams al-Waidheen, an adviser at the Middle East Centre for Strategic Studies, said: "When Iran describes a US proposal as a propaganda move, Iran wants to say that Washington is not serious about holding talks.

"When Washington puts premature conditions, ie, halt all uranium enrichment, Iran considers it an early step to hamper talks. The Iranian leadership wants to urge the US administration to start talks without prior conditions."

Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil exporter, says that its atomic aims are civilian and that it wants only to generate electricity.

Tehran has previously said it is willing to negotiate on the number of uranium-enriching centrifuges it uses for research, but has said it will not stop running the devices entirely as the UN Security Council has called for.

Diplomatic solution

Rice said on Wednesday: "To underscore our commitment to a diplomatic solution and to enhance prospects for success, as soon as Iran fully and verifiably suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities, the United States will come to the table with our EU3 colleagues and meet with Iran's representatives."   

Iran says its nuclear activities are
for civilian energy production

Rice is meeting the permanent five members of the UN Security Council and Germany in Vienna to discuss incentives and threats to get Iran to abandon its nuclear programme.
   
Rice said the US had agreed on the "essential elements" of the package and she hoped that Iran's government would consider the proposal thoroughly.

A state department official said Russia and China had agreed to return to the UN Security Council to seek sanctions against Iran if it did not "accept this offer of negotiations or does not negotiate in good faith".