Tehran: Iran will never abandon its “legal and obvious” right to nuclear technology, foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Tuesday, adding that Tehran had no plan to halt its disputed uranium enrichment work.
“The meetings with world powers and their behaviour shows that Iran’s right to have peaceful nuclear technology has been accepted by them ... Iran will never abandon its legal and obvious right,” Mottaki told a news conference.
Talks between Iran and world powers on a deal to allay concerns about Tehran’s nuclear programme started on Monday in Vienna. They were due to resume at 1:30pm, on Tuesday, but the start was delayed as US, French and Iranian diplomats conferred in corridors outside the meeting hall.
The reason for the delay was not clear.
The meeting hosted by the United Nations nuclear watchdog offered the first chance to build on proposals raised at Geneva talks on 1 October to defuse a standoff over suspicions that Iran’s uranium enrichment programme is covertly intended to develop nuclear weapons.
Mottaki praised the talks. Iran agreed in Geneva in principle to sending low-enriched uranium abroad for processing into fuel for a Tehran reactor producing medical isotopes.
“We see serious development in the talks ... the continuation of talks can lead to a deal over supplying Iran with the 20% enriched uranium,” Mottaki said.
“What we want is our right based on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It says the member countries should be supplied with nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes by those members that have the fuel.” The West hopes the step will minimise the risk of Iran refining the material to high purity suitable for bombs.
Western diplomats say Tehran must ultimately curb the programme to dispel fears of a growing Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) stockpile being further enriched to produce nuclear weapons.
LEU is used as fuel for nuclear reactors, while a nuclear bomb requires highly enriched uranium.
The West fears Iran’s nuclear programme is a front to build bombs. Iran denies this.
State-run Iranian television said on Monday Tehran would not deal directly with France since it had failed to deliver nuclear materials in the past. Mottaki said Iran did not need France for the fuel supply.
“There are Russia, America ... I believe these countries are enough. Not too many countries are needed to provide Iran with the fuel,” Mottaki said.
He said Iran had no intention to give up its disputed uranium enrichment activities, as demanded by the United Nations Security Council.
“Iran will continue its uranium enrichment. It is not linked to buying fuel from abroad,” Mottaki said.
Iran has been hit by three rounds of UN sanctions for refusing to halt its enrichment work. It said on Monday it would not hesitate to produce higher enriched uranium on its territory if nuclear talks failed in Vienna.
Iran won a reprieve from harsher UN sanctions by agreeing on 1 October to inspections of a hidden nuclear site and to send low-enriched uranium abroad for further processing.