BERLIN, June 16: Iran is ready to make a “positive step” at talks in Moscow on Tehran's disputed nuclear programme, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, adding that he hoped for progress at next week's crucial meeting.

Two days of talks between Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany begin Monday under the watchful eye of President Vladimir Putin — a strongman who expects results.

“We are ready on a voluntary basis to make a positive step if the other party makes a similar step,” Ahmadinejad told Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, a Sunday paper.

“We hope that we will make progress in Moscow.”

Moscow is the most sympathetic to Tehran among the six powers negotiating with it in the talks, although it has sided with the West in expressing fears that Iran could be pursuing nuclear weapons, which has raised the spectre of military strikes by the United States or Israel.

The so-called P5+1 group of nations — comprising UN Security Council permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany — offered a package of proposals to Iran at the last round of talks in Baghdad in May.

They called for Iran to halt its enrichment of uranium to 20 per cent, ship out its stockpile of 20-per cent uranium and halt enrichment at its fortified Fordo facility.

In return, they offered nuclear cooperation, spare parts for Iran's dilapidated passenger aircraft fleet and an easing of an EU ban on tanker insurance that hinders oil sales to Asia.

Iran's negotiators rejected the package as grossly insufficient.

They countered with a list of their own issues that included many non-nuclear topics such as regional security and the demand that the P5+1 override several UN Security Council resolutions by agreeing that Iran has a “right” to uranium enrichment.—AFP

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