Iran seeks end to sanctions at talks, hits out at France

VIENNA/DUBAI Wed May 2, 2012 2:57pm EDT

File photo of Iran's Permanent Representative to the U.N. in Vienna Akhondzadeh Basti in Vienna. REUTERS/Herwig Prammer

File photo of Iran's Permanent Representative to the U.N. in Vienna Akhondzadeh Basti in Vienna.

Credit: Reuters/Herwig Prammer

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VIENNA/DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran said on Wednesday it would seek an end to sanctions over its nuclear activities at talks with big powers later this month and it sought to turn the tables on its Western foes by accusing France of helping Israel develop "inhumane nuclear weapons".

An adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the negotiations in Baghdad on May 23 should lead to the lifting of punitive measures on Tehran, Iranian media reported.

The comments reflect a hardening public line in the Islamic Republic that an end to sanctions is vital to the success of the talks. It was also the first time an influential political figure explicitly said he expects progress on the issue.

"At the least, our expectation is the lifting of sanctions," Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel was quoted by Iranian media as saying.

However, the United States and its allies have made clear Tehran must take action to allay their concerns about its nuclear ambitions before they can consider relaxing sanctions.

They say Iran's nuclear program is a cover for developing atomic bombs and want verifiable assurances to the contrary from Tehran - for example, by accepting much more intrusive U.N. nuclear inspections and limiting its enrichment capacity.

Iran denies having a weapons agenda, saying it is enriching uranium solely for peaceful energy purposes.

Western states have imposed expanded, more biting sanctions against Iran's energy and banking sectors since the beginning of this year. The European Union is preparing to slap a total embargo on the purchase of Iranian crude oil in July.

In Vienna, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Mahdi Akhondzadeh said nuclear weapons have no place in Iran's defense doctrine, and accused "certain" states of double standards and hypocrisy - a clear allusion to Tehran's Western critics.

He zeroed in on France, a pivotal player in tightening sanctions on Iran, accusing it of having assisted Israel in developing nuclear weapons decades ago. The Jewish state is widely reputed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal.

France, a big exporter of civilian nuclear technology, built in the 1950s an Israeli reactor in the southern desert town of Dimona, a complex widely believed to have produced atomic bombs.

"While certain countries such as France express concerns over peaceful nuclear activities of Iran ... they have spared no effort in helping Israel ... to develop inhumane nuclear weapons," Akhondzadeh said.

"Indeed, France is the founder of Israel's clandestine nuclear weapons program," he told a meeting convened to discuss the state of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a voluntary 1970 pact.

IRAN "OPTIMISTIC" ABOUT TALKS

Israel, one of only three states outside the NPT, neither confirms nor denies it has nuclear weapons under a policy of ambiguity designed to deter regional Arab and Iranian adversaries but minimize the risk of arms races.

"The existence of nuclear weapons in the hands of ... Israel continues to pose the gravest threat to the stability and security" in the Middle East, Akhondzadeh said.

The United States and Israel regard Iran's nuclear ambitions as the main threat to peace in the volatile region, stirring persistent speculation they might attack its atomic sites if diplomacy fails to resolve the long-running dispute.

France's representative at the two-week NPT meeting in Vienna said on Monday Iran, one of the world's leading oil exporters, for "far too many years" had pursued an enrichment program without "any credible civil purpose."

Ambassador Elissa Golberg of Canada, a staunch ally of Israel, told delegates on Wednesday that Iranian activities could "only be understood in the context of a nuclear weapons development effort".

Akhondzadeh said the existence of nearly 23,000 nuclear warheads in the world and their continued modernization was the "most serious threat to the survival of mankind" and the nuclear weapons states should agree a date to eliminate them.

The five recognized nuclear weapons states are the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain - the same powers which together with Germany are putting pressure on Tehran to scale back its uranium enrichment program.

Akhondzadeh said Iran was "optimistic" about progress in the negotiations in Baghdad but would never give up its right to the peaceful use of atomic energy. Several U.N. Security Council resolutions call on Iran to suspend all enrichment-related work.

The talks with the powers resumed in mid-April in Istanbul after more than a year - a chance to halt a deterioration in diplomacy and help avert the threat of a new Middle East war.

"I hope the Baghdad negotiations complete the talks that took place in Istanbul, and the other side should take note that it should use rational behavior with Iran and (the) country will never surrender to pressure," Fars news agency quoted Haddad Adel as saying.

Western governments have credited the escalation of sanctions against Iran's financial institutions as instrumental in forcing Tehran back to the negotiating table.

European diplomats have said an EU oil embargo is a valuable tool and is unlikely to be lifted unless tangible progress is made at the meeting. Any easing of pressure, they say, would be cautious and gradual.

"We have to make Iran believe this is not a 'snap your fingers' moment. We have to take it step by step," one Western diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The diplomat cautioned against expectations that the round of talks in Baghdad would bring a conclusive agreement. "To assume that all will be solved in Baghdad would be a mistake."

(Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Justyna Pawlak in Brussels; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Comments (12)
Austell wrote:
“Israel neither confirms nor denies it has nuclear weapons, under an ambiguity designed to deter regional foes but avoid arms races.”

A pathetic opinion, if not deliberate coverup by the editors…

Israel neither confirms nor denies it has nuclear weapons because it would be illegal for it to procure them and they would be sanctioned for doing so.

Also it would be illegal under US and international law for the America to continue providing a single dollar in aid to Israel, and a serious breach of American NNPT obligations if they were to confirm the existance of these WMDs.

As usual if you want some accurate history on current events you will have to go elsewhere.

An informative point to make would have been on Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear technician who broke the news to the world only to be illegally drugged and kidnapped from Italy by Mossad and held political prisoner in Israel for the next 18 years!!!

11 of those years were in solitary confinement.

The man is a hero and deserves a little credit for risking his life to blow the whistle on this disgusting and illegal arsenal.

Thanks to him and his detailed evidence the world is now 100% certain that Israel has an illegal nuclear weapons arsenal.

Thanks again reuters…

And that concludes another chapter of:

‘What Reuters DOESNT want you to know.’

May 02, 2012 9:41am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Austell wrote:
Mordechai Vanunu is STILL to this day a captive of the Jewish state, 26 years later, he is the Nelson Mandella of Israel.

May 02, 2012 9:44am EDT  --  Report as abuse
sirjack wrote:
Hah, I had to call out the same sentence:

“Israel neither confirms nor denies it has nuclear weapons, under an ambiguity designed to deter regional foes but avoid arms races.”

This is deeply disingenuous. Please rest assured that every country in the region is well aware of Israel’s nuclear arsenal. Don’t give them credit for wanting to avoide and “arms race” or for being clever and coy.

There is always an arms race. It’s not going to begin out of thin air once Iran gets the bomb.

May 02, 2012 9:54am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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