TEHRAN: Iran is willing to discuss limits in the level to which it enriches uranium but will never suspend the process altogether, the deputy foreign minister said in comments reported yesterday.
“Over the past 10 years, we have insisted that a total suspension of uranium enrichment is out of the question,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, who plays a key role in nuclear talks with the West.
“But during the negotiations we could discuss the framework, level, method and site (of enrichment) on condition that this does not undermine enrichment and Iran’s right,” the ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.
His comments come after Iran held talks with foreign ministers of the major powers on Thursday on the framework for negotiations on its nuclear programme which are due to be held in Geneva on October 15 and 16.
The West wants major concessions from Iran, including the suspension of all enrichment of uranium beyond the level required to fuel nuclear power plants, and the closure of Iran’s underground enrichment facility near the central city of Qom.
Araqchi insisted that the talks with the so-called P5+1 group — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany — must lead to the lifting of sanctions “and the recognition of Iran’s right to enrich uranium.”
“Iran stands ready to lift any concerns” the West has about its nuclear programme, he said.
He added that lifting sanctions and the nuclear issue were central to the historic telephone conversation on Friday between Iranian President Hassan Rowhani and his US counterpart Barack Obama.
In Washington, Iran’s Foreign Minister accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of peddling lies yesterday over Tehran’s nuclear activities, and defended his country’s “non-negotiable” right to enrich uranium.
Mohammad Jawad Zarif told US television that Netanyahu — en route to the United States for talks and a speech at the United Nations — was wrong to allege that Iran’s recent moves to cooperate with the West amount to little more than an insincere charm offensive.
Netanyahu has dismissed new Iranian President Hassan Rowhani’s drive to mend fences with the international community.
Netanyahu has accused Rowhani of being a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” whose talk of allaying western concerns is a confidence trick and yesterday he called on the Jewish state’s US ally not to be fooled.
“A smile attack is much better than a lie attack,” Zarif said in an interview with ABC Television’s “This Week” political talk show.
“Mr Netanyahu and his colleagues have been saying since 1991, and you can check your records, that Iran is six months away from a nuclear weapon.
“We’re 22 years after that and they are still saying we’re six months away from a nuclear weapon,” he added.