Last updated: 28 February, 2012

Iran minister optimistic nuclear talks will go ahead

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Tuesday he was optimistic that talks with the international community over its controversial atomic activities would go ahead.

“We expect the dialogue that has started will continue,” Salehi told reporters after giving a speech to the UN Conference on Disarmament in which he repeated Iran’s stance that it considers nuclear weapons a “great sin”.

His comments came after the International Atomic Energy Agency said last week it had “major differences” with Iran after two fruitless visits probing suspected nuclear weapons work.

The IAEA trip had been seen as having an impact on the possible resumption of talks between Iran and the so-called P5+1 powers — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany — which broke down 13 months ago.

“We do not see any glory, pride or power in nuclear weapons, quite the opposite,” Salehi said in his speech in Geneva.

“Based on the religious decree issued by our supreme leader, the production, possession, use or threat of the use of nuclear weapons are illegitimate, futile, harmful, dangerous and prohibited as a great sin.”

Salehi reiterated that Tehran considers there are two alternatives in dealing with its “peaceful nuclear programme”.

“One way is engagement, cooperation and interaction, and the other is confrontation and conflict,” he said, adding that Iran has “always insisted” on the first option.

Salehi also said that the majority of Middle East states, including Iran and Egypt, want to establish a nuclear weapon free zone, and that the was “only obstacle to the creation of such a zone,” in an apparent reference to Israel.

“It is a matter of concern that all efforts to establish a nuclear free zone in the Middle East have not yet succeeded, due to its persistent refusal to join the NPT (nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) and to place its nuclear facilities under the IAEA safeguards system.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier Tuesday warned that a nuclear-armed Iran would control the major Gulf oil producers, send energy prices soaring, and “choke” the global economy.

Israel, the sole if undeclared nuclear armed state in the Middle East, says all options are open to stop Tehran’s ambitions, but it is under intense pressure from Washington and Europe not to launch a pre-emptive military strike.