Iran's foreign minister says nuclear enrichment is not negotiable

WASHINGTON Sun Sep 29, 2013 2:46pm EDT

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks to the media after a meeting of the foreign ministers representing the permanent five member countries of the United Nations Security Council, including Germany, at the U.N. Headquarters in New York September 26, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks to the media after a meeting of the foreign ministers representing the permanent five member countries of the United Nations Security Council, including Germany, at the U.N. Headquarters in New York September 26, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Eric Thayer

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iran's foreign minister said on Sunday the country's right to peaceful nuclear enrichment was not negotiable in talks with the United States but it does not need to enrich uranium to military-grade levels.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran was willing to open its nuclear facilities to international inspections but the United States must end economic sanctions as part of any deal on Iran's nuclear program.

Speaking in the midst of an intensified effort to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program, Zarif said he could see a "real chance" for agreement with the United States.

"Negotiations are on the table to discuss various aspects of Iran's enrichment program. Our right to enrich is non-negotiable," Zarif told ABC's "This Week" program.

Iran consistently has defended its right to enrich uranium as part of a civilian nuclear energy and medicine program, but the United States and its allies have sought an end to higher-grade uranium enrichment that could be a step away from the production of weapons-grade material.

"We do not need military-grade uranium. That's a certainty and we will not move in that direction," Zarif said. "Having an Iran that does not have nuclear weapons, is not just your goal, it's first and foremost our goal."

U.S. President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke by telephone on Friday in the highest-level contact between the two countries in three decades. It was the culmination of a recent, dramatic shift in tone between Iran and the United States, which cut diplomatic relations a year after the 1979 Iranian revolution.

Obama has said for years he was willing to have direct contact with Iran while also stressing that all options - including military strikes - were on the table to prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb.

But Zarif said Iran was willing to have its facilities visited by international inspectors to prove it was not seeking a nuclear bomb.

"If the United States is ready to recognize Iran's rights, to respect Iran's rights and move from that perspective, then we have a real chance," Zarif said.

"We are willing to engage in negotiations. The United States also needs to do things very rapidly. One is to dismantle its illegal sanctions against Iran," he said.

Zarif said there has been 34 years of "mutual distrust" between Iran and the United States but both sides should begin removing some of that distrust through talks.

(Reporting by John Whitesides; Editing by Eric Beech)

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Comments (5)
jrpardinas wrote:
The Iranians would be making a fatal mistake if they dismantle their nuclear program. It will be perceived as a provocative weakness by the warmongers out here in the States and their bosses in Israel.

It constitute a virtual invitation to mount the military attack they’ve foamed at the mouth and lusted for all these years.

A verifiable internationally-certified commitment by Iran not to produce nuclear devices is all that Iran should agree to.

It’s a right enjoyed by many countries around the world – including pissant little countries like Israel.

Sep 29, 2013 3:24pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
divinargant wrote:
Just when you think that the global comedy show might be running out of steam, in comes walking new material.

Sep 29, 2013 3:29pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
ARJTurgot2 wrote:
They’re having technical problems, plus they can’t buy parts. Nuclear weapons will still be destructive 5-10 years from now, and Iran could be a stronger country free of the sanctions, plus far more competent on nuclear energy. Israel is going to remain stupid and provocative and increasingly isolated from Europe and Africa. The U.S. troubles are not going away, and it will be increasingly internally focused. Heal the major schism in the mid-east, between Iran and Saudi Arabia and the pieces fall in place on their own. And all he has to do is stay calm and pleasant.

Sep 29, 2013 4:04pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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