Iran signals 'desire' to end nuclear dispute with West

VIENNA Mon Sep 16, 2013 11:34am EDT

Iran's then Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi reacts upon his arrival to attend the official opening ceremony for the new headquarters of the Iranian embassy in Amman, May 7, 2013. REUTERS/Majed Jaber

Iran's then Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi reacts upon his arrival to attend the official opening ceremony for the new headquarters of the Iranian embassy in Amman, May 7, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Majed Jaber

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VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran said on Monday 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 U.N. 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 new president, Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, has pledged to smooth relations with world powers to help ease stringent sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic over its atomic activities.

Salehi said Rouhani'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, believed to be the only nuclear-armed power in the Middle East, 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 since Rouhani succeeded hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president.

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 program. Iran says it is enriching uranium only for civilian energy and medicine.

HIGHER-GRADE ENRICHMENT

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 as it is only a short technical step away from the production of weapons-grade material.

"These are issues that will be discussed during the negotiations," he told reporters.

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.

"This would be a very important step. It is of fundamental importance that the six powers react adequately to this potential agreement," Sergei Lavrov said.

No date has yet been set for a resumption of Iran's talks with the powers, but the issue may be discussed on the sidelines of this month's U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York.

Western diplomats say that, after years of stalling, words are not enough.

"The proof will be in the pudding," U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who headed the U.S. delegation at the IAEA meeting, told reporters. "The words have to be followed by concrete action."

In his speech, Moniz accused Iran of continuing to take "provocative actions that raise legitimate concerns" about its nuclear program, an apparent reference to recent expansion of its uranium enrichment capacity.

Separately from the big power diplomacy, the IAEA has held 10 rounds of talks with Iran since 2012 in a so far fruitless bid to revive a blocked inquiry into its nuclear program.

Western states see a meeting set for September 27 in Vienna as a litmus test of any substantive shift.

"I have come here with a message of my newly elected president to further enhance and expand our ongoing cooperation with the agency," Salehi told the IAEA conference.

(Additional reporting by Steve Gutterman and Gabriela Baczynska in Moscow; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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Comments (2)
Ernest Moniz what a joke you are, google this man and it will say it all.
You may be a nuclear scientist but no expert on foreign relations, you were paid huge sums of money for your faculty, can you please name them and enlighten us?

Sep 16, 2013 12:04pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
ChangeIranNow wrote:
So Iran has 18,000 centrifuges with 10,000 of them spinning away. On top of that we find out that Zimbabwe has an alleged interest in selling uranium to Iran.Rouhani is determination on developing nuclear weapons creates significant instability to the Middle East and shows no let-up in this commitment. The international community should be extremely worried that Iran is seeking nuclear fuel outside of the approved avenues of low-enriched nuclear fuel rods, but is instead seeking raw mineral that it can enrich itself to weapon grade. The only real option for getting Iran off this course is to seek regime change. Hopefully it can be done by the ballot box if the people are given the opportunity for a free and fair election, but given what happened in 2009 and most recently in the elimination of over 680 candidates on the ballot, the odds are not good. If you want to see how Mr. Moderation, President Rouhani, is really a loyal hardliner, just check out www.hassan-rouhani.info.

Sep 20, 2013 6:19pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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