Iran may accept to negotiate its ongoing enrichment of uranium to higher levels if the West recognises it has the “right” to do so for peaceful purposes, its foreign ministry spokesman said on Sunday.
“If Western countries (accept) that our 20 percent enrichment programme is peaceful and then ask us not to do it, the Islamic Republic of Iran will think about their demand,” Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.
The issue of Iran’s 20 percent enrichment programme was at the forefront of Western demands seeking to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions during talks on Wednesday and Thursday in Baghdad.
Iran rejected the demand to stop the higher level enrichment and give up its stockpile in exchange for some inducements, put forward in a package by the so-called P5+1 group of six world powers — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany.
Iran says it needs the 20 percent enriched uranium to provide fuel for its medical research reactor in Tehran. The P5+1 fear that, if processed further to a level of 90 percent purity or above, it could be used to make atomic weapons.
Mehmanparast’s comments were relayed slightly differently by the Mehr news agency, which quoted him as saying: “Providing that our right to enrich uranium to 20 percent is recognised (by the West), then we will discuss” how to acquire the fuel for the reactor.
He added that the production of 20 percent enriched uranium was not “economical… (but) we will not allow any country to violate our (nuclear) rights.”
His remarks contrasted with those of Iran’s nuclear chief, Fereydoon Abbasi Davani, who was quoted on Sunday by media as insisting Tehran had “no reason” to suspend its purification of uranium to 20 percent.
“We have no reason to cede on 20 percent, because we produce only as much of the 20 percent fuel as we need. No more, no less,” Abbasi Davani said.
Iran insists its nuclear programme is exclusively peaceful.
It has railed against Western sanctions hitting its vital oil and financial sectors that aim to force it to curb its activities as unfair and illegal, though it claims they are ineffective.
Those sanctions are set to tighten further on July 1, when a European Union embargo on Iranian oil comes fully into effect. By then, US sanctions targeting Iran’s central bank will also be fully implemented.