Iran is ready to discuss limiting its production of enriched uranium, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said Sunday, but it will insist on the right to manufacture some fissile material on its own.
“Over the past 10 years, we have insisted that a total suspension of uranium enrichment is out of the question,” said Araghchi in an interview with the Iranian semi-official student news agency. ”We will never accept any precondition that may imply forfeiting our rights,” he was also quoted as saying.
Araghchi suggested, however, that in meetings scheduled for October 15-16 — which aim to resolve Western fears that Tehran is working to produce nuclear bombs — Iran is ready to discuss decreasing enrichment activities: The quantities being enriched; the level of enrichment; and the facilities where enrichment is carried out could all be discussed, he indicated.
But he gave no hint of readiness to send already enriched uranium out of the country, to accept more effective supervision of the Iranian nuclear program, to abandon Iran’s plutonium nuclear track, or meet other key Western demands.
US President Barack Obama said in his address to the United Nations last week that Iran is entitled ”to access peaceful nuclear energy,” but National Security Adviser Susan Rice explained that the president made sure to specify that that didn’t include enrichment.
“We insist that the Iranian government meet its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and UN Security Council resolutions,” Obama said.
Last week, Iran held talks with the foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany in a build-up to the meetings next month.
The meeting between Iran and world powers was meant to test the Islamic Republic’s apparent willingness to reach a deal to resolve international concerns about its nuclear program after years of defiance.
“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,” Araghchi said, referring to mid-October talks in Geneva between Iran and the P5+1 group, which is comprised of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany.
“Iran stands ready to lift any concerns” the West has about its nuclear program, Araghchi said, but added that in return the talks must lead to a lifting of current sanctions.
Last week’s meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly – as Secretary of State John Kerry came face-to-face with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, sat next to him at a U-shaped table, and also had a short private meeting with him — marked the highest-level direct contact between the US and Iran in six years.