TEHRAN: Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said yesterday Iran wanted to allay concerns over its nuclear programme, suspected of hiding efforts to build an atomic bomb, and resolve the impasse with world powers.
Perhaps most significantly, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, said separately Tehran could conceivably agree to allowing the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to conduct snap inspections of its facilities.
Western countries and Israel suspect that Tehran’s nuclear programme is cover for a weapons drive, a charge Iran strongly denies.
Yesterday’s remarks came as Iran’s new president, Hassan Rowhani, has expressed keenness to move forward quickly with serious, transparent negotiations, while not abandoning the country’s rights.
Zarif, a moderate whose ministry Rowhani tasked on Thursday to spearhead talks, said “there are two principles in the nuclear domain — first and foremost, respect for our rights in matters of nuclear technology, especially the enrichment of uranium.
“Following that is to allay international concerns” on the programme.
Zarif spoke after receiving a telephone call from EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, chief negotiator for the P5+1 -- the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany — who have been pressing Iran to stop enriching uranium.
That process, which Iran insists is purely for peaceful purposes, can lead in a more refined form to produce the fissile core of a nuclear weapon.
“Allaying international concerns is in our interest because atomic weapons do not form part of the Islamic republic’s policies,” Zarif said.
“Consequently, our interest is to remove any ambiguity regarding our country’s nuclear programme.”
“I told Mrs Ashton that if there is a political will to resolve this matter, particularly regarding Iran’s nuclear rights, we are equally ready to move forward,” he said.
Earlier, speaking in Vilnius, Ashton said she had told Zarif “I stand ready with my colleagues to get the talks moving,” adding that she hoped to meet him in New York during the UN General Assembly later this month.
Asked whether she expected Zarif to lead the nuclear talks, she said: “I don’t know who my interlocutor will be.”
“I hope we will set dates” for a new round of negotiations during the New York meeting, she added.