Iran hopes for IAEA deal, with eye on new P5+1 talks
16 January, 2013
TEHRAN: Iran hopes to reach a "comprehensive agreement" with UN nuclear agency experts during talks in Tehran Wednesday over the Islamic republic's disputed atomic activities, the foreign ministry spokesman said.
Ramin Mehmanparast, at his weekly press conference Tuesday, also announced that Tehran and world powers had agreed on a date but not the venue for the next round of talks in parallel diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis over Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"We hope for a comprehensive agreement to be reached in discussions" on Wednesday when a team of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts are expected in Tehran for a day of intense discussions, Mehmanparast said. But agreement, he said, would only be possible if Iran's "nuclear rights" are recognised by the UN agency.
"If we are to reach a deal and address alleged concerns, the other party's commitments should be fully clear... We expect the agency to fully respect our nuclear rights," he said.
The IAEA experts are visiting Tehran for the second time in less than a month, hoping to strike a deal requiring Iran to respond to what the Vienna-based agency calls "overall, credible" evidence nuclear weapons research work being conducted in the Islamic republic until 2003 and possibly since.
Mehmanparast implicitly ruled out the possibility of the IAEA team being granted access to Parchin, a military base near Tehran where the UN agency suspects experiments with explosives capable of triggering a nuclear weapon could have been carried out. "Parchin has no connection with Iran's nuclear activities," Mehmanparast said, adding that access to the site could be discussed but in the context of a possible agreement. IAEA's hopes of reaching a deal were not high, however.
The UN body's head Yukiya Amano said Friday that he was "not necessarily optimistic" and one Western diplomat told AFP Sunday "there still remain some pretty big disagreements" with Tehran. The talks on Wednesday will be closely monitored by the so-called P5+1 group — Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, and Germany — engaging Tehran in stalled negotiations over its nuclear programme. Mehmanparast said talks with the P5+1 are expected to resume when the venue for talks is agreed by all sides.
The date for a new round "was agreed last night in a phone conversation" between Iran's deputy nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri and EU foreign policy deputy chief Helga Schmid, he said without specifying the date.
Schmid, whose boss Catherine Ashton represents the world powers in talks, "must as soon as possible convey the group's proposal for the venue so we can resume the talks," Mehmanparast added.
Tehran and the P5+1 held three high-level talks in 2012, in a bid to address Western fears that Iran's atomic energy programme is aimed at acquiring a weapons capability.
Their last meeting, which all but failed, was held in Moscow in June, with Tehran rejecting P5+1 calls for it to scale back its nuclear enrichment activities and asking for a substantial sanctions relief. Top lawmaker Aladin Boroujerdi on Tuesday repeated Tehran's demands, the ISNA news agency reported.
"The main focus of the next talks with the P5+1 should be on lifting the sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union," said Boroujerdi, who heads the influential foreign policy commission at Iran's parliament. Iran's economy is struggling to cope with punitive measures adopted by the US and the EU targeting its vital oil income and access to global financial systems.
Iran vehemently denies seeking or ever having wanted the bomb. Mehmanparast said Tuesday a much-debated religious decree against nuclear weapons by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on the nuclear programme, was binding. "The fatwa is of utmost importance in clarifying Iran's nuclear activities," he said, dismissing Western doubts that the fatwa only served a religious value and not necessarily an obligation for the government.