Iranian FM: Tehran won’t attend nuclear talks if ‘Zionist regime’ present

Ahead of expected negotiations with world powers on final agreement, Zarif says Israel ‘biggest danger to region and the world’

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (photo credit: AP/Craig Ruttle/File)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (photo credit: AP/Craig Ruttle/File)

Iran will not attend nuclear talks if the “Zionist regime” participates, Iran’s foreign minister announced on Friday.

A report by the country’s official news agency IRNA quoted Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying that the Islamic Republic “would not attend a meeting in which the Quds [Jerusalem] occupying regime participates.”

“We consider the Zionist regime as the biggest danger to the region and the world,” Zarif told the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), according to IRNA.

Following last weekend’s interim deal between Iran and six world powers, the two sides are set to start talks on a final agreement that would see Iran further curb its nuclear program in exchange for eased international sanctions.

The report said the foreign minister’s remarks came in response to possible Israeli participation in the expected talks. It did not elaborate on the source of the reports on Israel’s possible presence.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has slammed the Geneva deal as a “historic mistake” and announced the dispatch to the US of his national security adviser to try to shape the final agreement with Iran. President Barack Obama and Netanyahu agreed on the dispatch of the Israeli team when they spoke on Sunday, not long after the Geneva deal was reached, so that Israel’s concerns would be made known to the US negotiators, but there was no public suggestion that Israel would have a direct role in any future negotiations with Iran.

“Definitely…we will not be in a room where the Zionist regimeˈs envoy is present,” Zarif promised.

He said instead of putting pressure on Iran, the world powers should try to push for regional disarmament, a reference to disarming Israel’s own alleged nuclear arsenal. Israel maintains a policy of ambiguity, neither confirming nor denying it possesses a nuclear arsenal.

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution that brought Islamist leaders to power, Iran does not recognize Israel and supports terror groups like Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. It’s leaders frequently speak of Israel’s inevitable demise. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei nine days ago called Israel the “rabid dog” of the region, and said its people “should not be called humans.”

Last weekend, in a meeting with world powers, Iran agreed to freeze parts of its nuclear program in return for the easing of Western sanctions.

Western powers and Israel worry Iran’s nuclear program could be used to build an atomic bomb. Iran says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes, like power generation and medical research.

Iranian nuclear envoy Reza Najafi also criticized Israel on Friday in a statement to the United Nations nuclear agency, which will monitor the agreement reached in Geneva.

“Israel … is crying wolf about nuclear proliferation concerns,” Najafi told the International Atomic Energy Agency. “This regime (has) a long history of aggression against neighbors, atrocity against peoples under occupation and clandestine development of all kinds of” weapons of mass destruction.

Joseph Macmanus, the chief US delegate to the IAEA, told The Associated Press that Najafi’s anti-Israel comments were “inflammatory … and wrong.”

Najafi also told the agency that said the proposed nuclear deal likely will start to be implemented at the end of next month or in early January. Diplomats told the AP on Wednesday that they did not expect the deal to begin before the start of the new year.

In Iran, most have supported the nuclear deal, though some hard-liners remain suspicious. On Friday, most clerics who led Friday prayers across Iran gave sermons discussing their support for the Geneva deal, while calling it a failure for Israel.

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