TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran sees no need for world powers to publicly acknowledge its "right" to uranium enrichment, its foreign minister said Sunday, offering a potential way to sidestep another sticking point on a possible nuclear deal when talks resume later this week. Mohammad Javad Zarif's remarks appear to give more latitude over previous demands that the West declare that Tehran has international clearance to produce nuclear fuel since Iran is a signer of a U.N. treaty governing atomic technology.
The U.S. and others have balked at supporting Iran's "right" to enrich uranium. Zarif was quoted by the semiofficial ISNA news agency as calling the right of enrichment nonnegotiable. But he added that there was no necessity for its recognition as a right because that is self-evident in the U.N. treaty. "We do see right of enrichment not only nonnegotiable but see no necessary for its recognition as a right," Zarif was quoted as saying. "This is an inseparable right and all countries should respect it."
He said the U.S. stance in opposing enrichment rights for other countries "does not mean that they are opposing Iran's enrichment." He said suspension of uranium enrichment is Iran's "red line." Zarif said none of the powers involved in negotiations has sought the halt of uranium enrichment by Iran. He added that the west should lift sanctions imposed on Iran because of Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
Iran has long refused to completely give up uranium enrichment - but the level of enrichment has become a key aspect of the ongoing Geneva talks. Halting enrichment to the level of 20 percent - a level Iran has acknowledged and which is several steps away from weapons-grade material - is a key goal of the West. On Friday, Zarif said he was hopeful about the next week's round of talks, which include the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany. The group worries that Iran's nuclear program has a military dimension, a charge Iran denies, insisting it is solely for peaceful energy production and cancer treatment.