Last updated: 12 July, 2011

Iran seeks ‘explicit’ nuclear deal with UN

Iran on Tuesday signaled it wanted closer cooperation with the UN atomic watchdog but said the Vienna-based agency must agree to “explicit” guidelines on how to proceed to solve a nuclear row.

“Experts from both sides have to sit together and work out a mechanism to see how we can proceed,” Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said after talks with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano.

But the “IAEA should come out and say that the first stage has been over” and that six outstanding issues have been answered.

“And it should be said in a very explicit way,” he added speaking at IAEA headquarters in the Austrian capital.

For his part, Amano reiterated the IAEA’s position that Iran is not meeting its obligations as listed in his February report and could not yet consider a new approach with Iran.

“The Director General indicated that he is not in a position at this stage to consider the Work Plan to be completed,” the IAEA said in a statement.

Iran and the IAEA agreed in 2007 on a work plan for Tehran to answer outstanding concerns about its contested nuclear programme.

The UN Security Council has demanded, with both resolutions and sanctions, that Iran stop uranium enrichment, which produces fuel for civilian power reactors but can also make the raw material for atom bombs.

In its latest report the IAEA also reiterated calls for Tehran to clarify its position before the watchdog wraps up its probe into the Iranian nuclear programme.

Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, after meeting with Salehi, told journalists Tuesday it was important to “overcome the stalemate” over Iran’s nuclear programme and return to the negotiating table.

“Unfortunately there has been no progress in the past few years,” he noted, although he expressed hope a recent invitation by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton could again set things into motion.

Salehi meanwhile brushed off suspicions regarding Iran’s nuclear activities.

“The IAEA is the only international authority on this issue so other judgments whether Iran carries out peaceful or non-peaceful activities” were irrelevant, he said, reiterating Tehran’s official position that nuclear weapons were “immoral and unethical.”

“Everyone is tired of the nuclear dossier,” he added at a joint press conference with Spindelegger.

Over their one-hour discussion, the two ministers also broached the topic of human rights, with Spindelegger saying he was “concerned” about the situation in Iran and calling for the release of two women’s rights activists, Maryam Majd and Iranian film-maker Mahnaz Mohammadi, arrested last month.

“No country has a spotless record on human rights,” Salehi countered however.

“We are making every effort to improve the human rights situation and guarantee fundamental rights for everyone… like every other country.”

Ahead of the meeting, a dozen protesters had gathered in front of the foreign ministry with megaphones and banners reading “Stop Salehi.”

Spindelegger however defended the meeting, noting: “We want a resolution of the nuclear programme issue and to improve the human rights situation, and to achieve this we need a dialogue.”

Salehi, a former head of Tehran’s nuclear energy agency who took over as foreign minister in February, had been barred from EU soil until May, when the European Union suspended a travel ban against him.

At the same time however, EU foreign ministers expanded sanctions on the Islamic republic by adding more than 100 firms to a blacklist of companies hit by an assets freeze.

The EU and the United States have slapped unilateral sanctions on Iran on top of punitive measures imposed by the UN Security Council over Tehran’s refusal to halt sensitive nuclear fuel work.

Iran denies the charge and insists it is merely trying to produce civilian energy.