Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday blasted recent concessions offered by the West in exchange for Tehran pulling back its nuclear program, saying they were “minor and unimportant.”
The statement ran in direct contravention to statements by negotiators on both sides, who called the offer an important turning point.
Last week, the P5+1 group of nations — the US, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany – wrapped up a two-day summit in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, offering an easing of some sanctions in exchange for curbs on uranium enrichment.
Iran is supposed to respond to the offer at the followup meeting next month, but the statement from Khamenei, who determines the country’s policies, may offer a preview of Iranian intransigence on the issue.
Saeed Jalili, Iran’s top official at the summit, called the offer a “turning point” by world powers in the search for a compromise on the Iranian quest for nuclear capability.
However, Khameini said that the West did nothing more than acknowledge a small portion of Iran’s national rights. He added that the next round of talks, scheduled to take place again in Kazakhstan in early April, will test the sincerity of the world powers.
On Wednesday, Joseph MacManus, the chief US delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), accused Iran of “deception, defiance and delay” in addressing international concerns about its nuclear activities. He also suggested that the US might push for tougher diplomatic action in the coming months.
The P5+1 offer, which was seen as a breakthrough after over a year of failed talks, would allow Iran to keep a limited amount of highly enriched uranium, but not make any more. The offer stopped short of demanding the full shutdown of the underground nuclear facility at Fordo, and offered to remove some trade sanctions that have hurt Iran’s economy.
An Israeli official was also critical of the West’s offered compromise, telling AFP on Saturday that “the only thing that was achieved in these talks was to give Iran more time to move ahead in its quest for a nuclear weapon.”
In Brussels, Belgium on Thursday, President Shimon Peres told European Commission head Juan Manuel Barrosso that sanctions on Iran have accomplished more than was expected, but have not yet accomplished the goal.
“Iran is threatening the world not only because of its pursuit of nuclear weapons but also with its blatant disregard for human rights and the killing of innocent people,” he said. “Protecting human rights is not just for our children but also for the wellbeing of Iranians.”
Iran denies that it wants nuclear weapons, saying its program is for energy and medical research.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.