Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation President Ali Akbar Salehi and Vice-President of Iran, giving a speech during the 57th General Conference at the UN atomic agency headquarters in Vienna yesterday.
VIENNA: Iran said yesterday that it wanted to settle a decade-old nuclear dispute with the West that has raised fears of a new Middle East war, but the United States said it must back words with action.
New Iranian atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi pledged greater cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog, delivering a conciliatory message before talks this month about activities that the West suspects are aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability.
Iran was also optimistic that broader negotiations with major powers could achieve a deal if the parties came with good intentions, Salehi told the annual meeting of the 159-nation International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
“This time we are coming with a more full-fledged ... desire for this,” he said. Iran’s President Hassan Rowhani has pledged to smooth relations with world powers to help ease stringent sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic over its atomic activities.
Salehi said Rowhani’s election and his appointments in nuclear diplomacy had created a “like-minded group” that would “facilitate the resolution” of the dispute if the other side was willing to do so.
The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to curb Tehran’s activities. Salehi’s comments, in a speech at the IAEA and to reporters, were in line with other signals coming from Iran.
But, like other Iranian officials, Salehi stressed that Iran would never “compromise” over what it sees as its inalienable right to a civilian nuclear energy programme. Iran says it is enriching uranium only for civilian energy and medicine.
Salehi declined to say whether Iran would be willing to halt its higher-grade uranium enrichment, the part of its nuclear work that most worries the West. “These are issues that will be discussed during the negotiations,” he said.
In Moscow, Russia’s foreign minister said Iran was ready to discuss this higher-level enrichment, to a fissile purity of 20 percent, in talks with the six world powers — Russia, the United States, China, France, Britain and Germany.