Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Europe will emerge as the "big loser" of the Iranian nuclear standoff for siding with the United States.
In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, Mr. Ahmadinejad says European countries risk losing influence in the Middle East and are ruining their reputation elsewhere in the world.
He says European officials know Iran's nuclear activities are peaceful.
Iran's foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki, meanwhile, says his country is ready to resume nuclear talks with Britain, France and Germany - the so-called EU-3 - without preconditions. White House spokesman Tony Snow says the U.S. welcomes a renewal of the talks.
Iran's comments come as European Union negotiators are finalizing a package of economic incentives aimed at persuading Iran to abandon sensitive nuclear activities.
Representatives from the five permanent U.N. Security Council members - the U.S., France, Britain, China, Russia and Germany are due to meet in Vienna on Thursday for more talks. Ahead of that meeting, President Bush spoke Tuesday with the leaders of Russia, France and Germany. Details of the conversations were not released.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said differences between the countries preparing to meet Thursday are being whittled down and chances for an agreement on incentives and possible sanctions are good.
The U.S. favors sanctions if Iran refuses to stop enriching uranium. Russia and China oppose sanctions and the use of force.
The U.S. and Europe suspect Iran is seeking to build a nuclear weapon, a charge Tehran denies.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.
... Payvand News - 5/31/06 ... --