TEHRAN — Iran’s top decision-maker Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday that while he is not against a resumption of nuclear negotiations with the world’s major powers, the talks will “lead nowhere.”
“Some of the officials of the previous government as well as the officials of this government think the problem will be resolved if they negotiate the nuclear issue,” Khamenei said in remarks published on his website, Khamenei.ir.
“I repeat it again that I am not optimistic about the negotiations and they will lead nowhere, but I am not against them,” he added.
Iran is due to resume talks on Tuesday in Vienna with the P5+1 powers — Britain, France, the United States, Russia and China plus Germany — aimed at reaching a comprehensive accord on its controversial nuclear program following a landmark interim deal in November.
Under the interim deal, Iran agreed to freeze some nuclear activities for six months in exchange for modest sanctions relief and a promise by Western powers not to impose new restrictions on its hard-hit economy.
Western powers and Israel have long suspected Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability alongside its civilian program, charges denied by Tehran.
Khamenei said Iran would abide by its pledge to pursue the negotiations.
“The work that has been started by the foreign ministry will continue and Iran will not violate its commitment, but I repeat it again, it will lead to nowhere,” Khamenei said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has criticized the interim deal as “political theater” on Iran’s part, calling Tehran’s concessions “cosmetic” and saying the agreement provided sanctions relief to Tehran while allowing it to continue to enrich uranium, thus providing the economic solace, and the time, it needed to work toward a nuclear weapon.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is leading Tehran’s negotiating team, arrived in Vienna on Monday. He is scheduled to meet EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton over a working dinner.
Iranian media reported the negotiations would officially begin at 8:30 a.m. GMT on Tuesday.