President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday that Iran is ready to sit down with world powers for talks on its nuclear programme as he brushed off the harmful effect of newly imposed sanctions.
"They have this excuse that Iran is dodging negotiations while it is not the case...," the Iranian leader was quoted as saying by state media. "Why should we run away from the negotiations?"
Ahmadinejad was implicitly responding to comments made by Western officials urging the Islamic republic to return to negotiations over its contested nuclear programme.
"The European Union stands together in sending that clear message to the government of Iran: that we wish to go back to negotiations, to invite them to pick up the issues which were left on the table in Istanbul a year ago," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Tuesday
The last round of talks between Iran and the major powers consisting of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States was held in Turkey in January 2011, but the negotiations collapsed.
Ahmadinejad also downplayed the effect of the newly imposed Western sanctions saying they would not hurt his nation.
"Once our trade with the Europe was around 90 percent but now it has reached 10 per cent and we are not seeking this 10 percent... experience has shown the Iranian nation will not be hurt," Ahmadinejad said during a visit to the southern Kerman province.
"For the past 30 years, the Americans have not been buying oil from us. Our central bank has no relations with you," he added.
The European Union on Monday slapped an embargo on Iranian oil exports as the West ramped up pressure on Tehran over its controversial nuclear drive and urged it to return to the negotiating table.
The Islamic republic, which is already under four rounds of United Nations sanctions, vehemently denies its nuclear programme masks an atomic weapons drive as the West alleges, and insists it is for civilian purposes only.
Local media in Iran reported on Thursday that the parliament is expected to consider next week a bill to ban oil exports to Europe following the bloc's decision to impose the oil embargo.
EU foreign ministers agreed on an immediate ban on oil imports and a phase-out of existing contracts up to 1 July. They also froze the assets of Iran's central bank while ensuring legitimate trade under strict conditions.
The bloc imported some 600,000 barrels per day of Iranian oil in the first 10 months of last year, making it a key market alongside India and China, which has refused to bow to pressure from Washington to dry up Iran's oil revenues.
The new EU sanctions meanwhile would make it even more difficult for Iran to be paid in foreign currency for its oil exports, worth more than 100 billion dollars in 2011.