Simon Sturdee, AFP
Last updated: 16 September, 2013

Iranian nuclear chief “optimistic” on world power talks

Iran’s new nuclear chief said Monday that Tehran was “optimistic” about upcoming talks with world powers, offering “enhanced” but unspecified cooperation with the UN atomic agency.

“I have come here with a message of my newly elected president to further enhance and expand our ongoing cooperation with the (UN atomic) agency and with the aim to put an end to the so-called Iran nuclear file,” Ali Akbar Salehi said.

“We are optimistic about the outcome of the forthcoming five-plus-one meeting, should the two parties join the meeting with good intentions and with the resolve of solving the aforementioned issues based on a win-win approach.”

He said in a speech to the International Atomic Energy Agency general conference of all members that the election in June of President Hassan Rowhani had created a “conducive environment” to resolving the long-running standoff.

However, he added that Iran would never abandon its “right” to peaceful uses of nuclear technology and that the Islamic republic does not want the bomb.

The UN Security Council has passed six resolutions since 2006 calling on Iran to suspend key parts of its nuclear programme because of suspicions that Tehran wants atomic weapons.

UN and Western sanctions targeting Iran’s vital oil industry and its access to the global financial system last year began to cause major economic problems for the Persian Gulf country.

The United States and Israel, widely thought to be the only Middle East country with nuclear weapons, has refused to rule out bombing Iran.

Rowhani’s election has created hope that after a decade of false starts, a diplomatic solution to the crisis can be found, with a new round of talks with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (the P5+1 or E3+3) expected soon.

New Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif earlier this month spoke by phone with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, P5+1 chief negotiator, and the two are due to meet at the upcoming UN General Assembly.

US President Barack Obama said in a weekend interview that he and Rowhani had “reached out” to each other by exchanging letters.

Salehi, foreign minister under Rowhani’s more hardline predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, did not say on Monday what form the enhanced cooperation with the IAEA would take.

But two weeks ago he told state media that Iran might accede to long-standing demands to implement the so-called additional protocol, an accord with the IAEA giving it greater inspection rights.

He said on Monday that the large number of IAEA inspections, including around 100 unannounced ones since 2003, on Iran’s nuclear facilities made it the “second-most inspected country after Japan”.

A new round of talks between Iran and the IAEA is meanwhile set for September 27 in Vienna.

This meeting, following 10 other failed gatherings since early 2012, is aimed at clearing up allegations that Iran conducted nuclear weapons research before 2003 and possibly since.

Salehi on Monday repeated Tehran’s assertion that these accusations, based in part on claims from spy agencies like the CIA and Mossad, are “baseless”.