Iran is ready to revive talks with the world powers, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said, as Tehran faces tougher sanctions over its controversial nuclear programme.
But he insisted that the pressures will not force Iran to give up its demands, including to continue enriching uranium, that led to the collapse of dialogue last year. The United States and its allies want Iran to halt making nuclear fuel, which they worry could eventually lead to weapons-grade material and the production of nuclear weapons.
Iran says its programme is for peaceful purposes - generating electricity and producing medical radioisotopes to treat cancer patients.
The 27-member European Union imposed an oil embargo against Iran on Monday, part of sanctions to pressure Tehran into resuming talks on the country's nuclear program. It follows US action also aimed at limiting Iran's ability to sell oil, which accounts for 80% of its foreign revenue.
No date is set for the possible resumption of talks between Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany. Negotiations ended in stalemate in January 2011, and Iran later rejected a plan to send its stockpile of low-enriched uranium abroad in exchange for reactor-ready fuel rods.
Iran had previously indicated that it is ready for a new round of talks. Ahmadinejad is the highest-ranking official to make the offer. He accused the West of trying to scuttle negotiations as a way to further squeeze Iran. "It is you who come up with excuses each time and issue resolutions on the verge of talks so that negotiations collapse," Ahmadinejad said in a speech in Kerman in south-eastern Iran.
"Why should we shun talks? Why and how should a party that has logic and is right shun talks? It is evident that those who resort to coercion are opposed to talks and always bring pretexts and blame us instead."
A senior UN nuclear agency team is expected to visit Tehran on Saturday, the first such mission since a report in November that alleged Iran conducted secret weapons-related tests and that Tehran was on the brink of developing a nuclear weapon.
IAhmadinejad also said sanctions and oil embargo will backfire because it has minimum trade with EU. "Americans have not purchased Iranian oil for 30 years. Our central bank has had no dealings with them ... our (total) foreign trade is about 200 billion dollars (£127 billion). Between 23 billion dollars to 24 billion dollars (about £15 billion) of our trade is with Europeans, making up about 10% of our total trade ... Iran won't suffer," Ahmadinejad said. His comments were posted on state TV's website.
The EU had been importing about 450,000 barrels of oil a day from Iran, making up 18% of Iran's oil exports.