Iran’s supreme leader: We’ll be flexible in nuclear talks

Khamenei says he doesn’t want nukes; reports claim he’s ready to allow surprise inspections and ‘real-time’ oversight of facilities

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, left, speaks during a meeting with Hasan Rouhani in Tehran, Iran, on June 16, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Office of the Supreme Leader)
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, left, speaks during a meeting with Hasan Rouhani in Tehran, Iran, on June 16, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Office of the Supreme Leader)

Iran is not opposed to dialogue with the West concerning its nuclear program and will show flexibility in negotiations, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tuesday.

“I am not opposed to correct diplomacy,” Khamenei said. “I believe in what was named many years ago as ‘heroic flexibility.’”

Khamenei’s comments came a day after German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that Iranian President Hasan Rouhani was prepared to shut down Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Fordo in exchange for eased Western sanctions.

“A wrestler sometimes shows flexibility for technical reasons. But he does not forget about his opponent nor about his main objective,” Khamenei added.

Speaking at a meeting with Revolutionary Guards commanders, Khamenei went on to deny that the Islamic Republic strove to acquire nuclear weapons, calling the possession of such weapons contrary to Islamic ideals.

“We do not believe in nuclear weapons because of our beliefs, not for the sake of the US or other countries, and when we say that no country should possess nuclear weapons, we ourselves are definitely not trying to possess them,” he said.

In an apparent reply to Khamenei and Rouhani’s statements, US President Barack Obama said Tuesday that he would test Iran’s willingness to engage in dialogue about its unsanctioned nuclear program.

“There is an opportunity here for diplomacy,” Obama said. “And I hope the Iranians take advantage of it.”

Khamenei is ready to allow real-time oversight of Iran’s nuclear facilities via camera, and surprise visits by UN inspectors, Israel’s Channel 2 news further reported Tuesday night. Assuming Iran did not have secret facilities elsewhere, such oversight, the report said, would preclude a “break out’ by Iran to the bomb, as might be possible in the current situation during periods between scheduled visits by inspectors.

The report also said Iran seeks to maintain its “civilian” nuclear program, but would agree to limit the number of centrifuges enriching uranium at its Natanz facility.

Earlier Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set out his criteria for ensuring Iran did not attain a nuclear weapons capability.

On Monday, White House Spokesman Jay Carney said that the Obama administration continues to “hope that this new Iranian government will engage substantively to achieve a diplomatic solution” and that the United States “remains ready to engage with the Rouhani government on the basis of mutual respect to achieve a peaceful resolution.”

On Sunday, US President Barack Obama revealed that he had exchanged letters with the recently elected Iranian president.

The two leaders will both attend next week’s United Nations General Assembly in New York, with Obama expected to address the plenum on Tuesday morning, and Rouhani will speak for the first time on Tuesday afternoon. The White House says no meeting has been scheduled between them.

Negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program have hit a deadlock concerning the future of the 20% enriched uranium being produced at the formerly secret Fordo facility. Iran says it simply wants to agree to a freeze in enrichment in exchange for having the stringent sanctions placed against Tehran lifted. The United States wants the plant to be dismantled altogether, and wants Iran to hand over all of its highly enriched uranium.

Uranium for civilian energy purposes requires 5% enrichment, whereas weapons-grade uranium is considered to be 20% enriched or greater.
Washington does not see Iranian suspension of enrichment as meeting its demands, but as a confidence-building measure.

The Obama administration has indicated that it would be willing to consider discussing relaxing some sanctions if enrichment is suspended. It has not publicly signaled how conciliatory it is willing to be.

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