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President Hassan Rouhani has called for “serious and substantive” negotiations with the international community about Iran’s nuclear programme.

At the first news conference since his inauguration on Sunday, Hassan Rouhani said he was confident both sides’ concerns could be resolved in a short time.

But a solution could be reached solely through “talks, not threats”, Hassan Rouhani added.

The US has said Hassan Rouhani’s presidency presents an opportunity for Iran to resolve the world’s “deep concerns”.

“Should this new government choose to engage substantively and seriously to meet its international obligations and find a peaceful solution to this issue, it will find a willing partner in the United States,” it added.

Western powers suspect Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.

Iran has repeatedly rejected demands by the so-called P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany – to halt uranium enrichment.

Addressing domestic and international journalists in Tehran on Tuesday, Hassan Rouhani stated that Iran’s uranium enrichment programme was peaceful and legal and would continue. But he also said he was determined to resolve the long-running dispute.

Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani is ready to talk on nuclear issue

Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani is ready to talk on nuclear issue

“We are ready – seriously and without wasting time – to engage in serious and substantive talks with the other sides. I am certain the concerns of the two sides would be removed through talks in a short period of time.

“However, demands outside any legal framework or illogical and outdated demands will not be useful. We should deal with the issue through a realistic approach.”

But Hassan Rouhani stressed that Iran’s rights must be preserved, adding: “The basis of our agenda should be talks, not threats.”

Hassan Rouhani said the US still did not have a thorough and proper understanding of what was happening in Iran, and that it had not responded in an “appropriate and practical” manner after June’s presidential election.

“[Washington’s] behavior and words are contradictory,” he said, adding that there was a “war-mongering group” there opposed to talks which was taking orders from a foreign country – presumably a reference to Israel.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcomed Hassan Rouhani’s call for negotiations.

“We absolutely agree with what he said. Resolving this, like any other issue, must be not on the basis of ultimatums, but based on a respectful attitude to a partner,” he told reporters in Rome.

Earlier, Sergei Lavrov’s deputy said a new round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 must not be delayed and should take place by mid-September.

On Sunday, Hassani Rouhani presented to Iran’s parliament, the Majlis, a new cabinet dominated by technocrats who had previously served under a moderate former President, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Hassan Rouhani also vowed at Tuesday’s news conference that his government would be accountable and act transparently.

He said he would keep his promise to “report on the progress made and the achievements, as well as the shortcomings and failings”.

“Without the people’s support, the government will have no chance of meeting its long-term goals,” he warned.

Hassan Rouhani has inherited a range of problems from his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, including high inflation, diminishing revenues and foreign reserves, possible food shortages, as well as sanctions.

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South Korean experts have not detected any radioactive isotopes from North Korea’s nuclear test, hampering efforts to assess the device.

Eight samples had been analyzed but nothing found, the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission said.

Finding certain isotopes – xenon gases in particular – would help experts determine whether a plutonium or uranium-based device was used.

But a well-contained test could yield no radioactive isotopes, experts say.

South Korean planes and ships were sent out immediately after the test to collect samples, as was a Japanese plane.

“Two days since the North’s nuclear test, the commission has completed analyzing eight samples, but no radioactive isotopes have been discovered as of 15:00 Thursday,” the commission said.

No changes had been recorded at 122 unmanned radiation monitoring systems across the country, it added.

North Korea said on Tuesday that it had carried out an underground nuclear test, which it claimed involved a miniaturized but more powerful device.

Seismic activity triggered by the test at the Punggye-ri site in the north-east of the country was detected by several nations.

The UN Security Council has condemned the test – North Korea’s third, following tests in 2006 and 2009 – and promised action.

Xenon isotopes were detected after the first test but not after the second. Experts say finding it can be a matter of luck and has to be done quickly because it decays rapidly.

North Korea’s first two tests involved plutonium, but it is believed to have a uranium-enrichment programme.

While it has depleted its stocks of “reactor-grade” plutonium needed to make the weapons-grade variety, the country has plentiful reserves of uranium ore.

South Korean experts have not detected any radioactive isotopes from North Korea's nuclear test, hampering efforts to assess the device

South Korean experts have not detected any radioactive isotopes from North Korea’s nuclear test, hampering efforts to assess the device

North Korea’s neighbors and the US, meanwhile, are working to coordinate a response to the test.

On Thursday South Korea’s military conducted exercises on both coasts, Yonhap news agency said, while the defence ministry unveiled a missile that it said could hit “precise targets” like “windows of a North Korean command office”.

The National Assembly also adopted a resolution condemning the nuclear test. The two Koreas are still technically at war following the armistice of 1953 that ended armed conflict on the Korean peninsula.

Amid a flurry of diplomatic activity over the issue, US President Barack Obama spoke on the phone with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for about 20 minutes, according to Kyodo news agency.

“They pledged to work closely together to seek significant action at the United Nations Security Council and to co-operate on measures aimed at impeding North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes,” the White House said in a statement.

The Australian government, meanwhile, has also decided to postpone a visit by North Korean diplomats exploring the possibility of reopening an embassy in the capital, Canberra, this weekend, because of the test.

“We postponed the arrival of North Korean diplomats in Australia as a gesture following this detonation,” Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said.

Bob Carr, however, added that there are still plans to re-establish the embassy, saying that “there’s value in having a North Korean diplomatic presence here”.

North Korea closed its embassy there in 2008 due to financial issues.

Iran has announced its plans to upgrade uranium enrichment centrifuges at Natanz plant to the UN nuclear agency, reports citing diplomats say.

The move would allow the country to refine uranium at a faster rate, increasing fears among western states about Iran’s intentions.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful in purpose. The US and its allies fear it seeks nuclear weapons.

The plan was set out in a letter to the IAEA dated January 23, reports said.

The letter is said to mention a model of centrifuge, called IR2m, which can enrich two or three times faster than the present equipment being used by Tehran, according to the Associated Press.

Iran has announced its plans to upgrade uranium enrichment centrifuges at Natanz plant to the UN nuclear agency

Iran has announced its plans to upgrade uranium enrichment centrifuges at Natanz plant to the UN nuclear agency

The International Atomic Energy Agency sent a letter to member states saying Iran had informed the agency of its plans to use the improved machines at its fuel enrichment plant in Natanz, according to a document seen by Reuters.

“The Secretariat of the Agency received a letter from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran [AEOI] dated 23 January 2013 informing the Agency that <<centrifuge machines type IR2m will be used in Unit A-22>> at the Fuel Enrichment Plant [FEP] at Natanz,” the IAEA communication is reported to say.

The Natanz facility, in central Iran, is at the heart of the country’s dispute with the United Nations Security Council.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the European Union’s top foreign policy official said she believed that negotiations on the country’s nuclear programme would resume shortly.