Iran: Suspension of nuclear program is not up for negotiation
Comment by Iran official at P5+1 nuclear talks in Istanbul comes as chief Iranian envoy to the meet praises what he calls a 'positive atmosphere.'
Iran would refuse to discuss any suspension of its uranium enrichment activities during talks with six world powers over its nuclear program that opened in Istanbul on Friday, a senior Iranian official said.
"We will not allow any talks linked to freezing or suspending of Iran's enrichment activities to be discussed at the meeting in Istanbul," Massoud Zohrevand, a senior official in the Iranian delegation said.
"So far this issue has not been discussed, has not been raised or mentioned by the other party," Zohrevand said, adding, "Iran's nuclear rights cannot be discussed."
Zohrevand's comments came as a statement released by Iran's National Security Council released earlier Friday indicated Tehran's satisfaction with concurrent P5+1 nuclear talks, applauding what they call a "positive atmosphere."
The statement was issued after the first two-hour session on Friday morning. The talks are due to resume later in the afternoon and continue through Saturday.
Iran's nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili is Secretary General of the National Security Council.
Iran and six world powers sought Friday to find common ground at talks jeopardized by Tehran's refusal to discuss demands that it curb nuclear activities that could manufacture the fissile core of nuclear warheads.
The two sides sat down with no sign that they were ready to budge from widely differing positions revealed after a first round of talks in Geneva last month.
While the six would like to kickstart talks focused at freezing Iran's uranium enrichment program, Tehran has repeatedly said that activity is not up for discussion. Instead, Iranian officials are pushing an agenda that covers just about everything except its nuclear program: global disarmament, Israel's suspected nuclear arsenal, and Tehran's concerns about U.S. military bases in Iraq and elsewhere in the region.
We want to discuss the fundamental problems of global politics at Istanbul talks, Jalili said, while President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suggested any push to restrict the meeting to Iran's nuclear program would fail.
"They employed all their might and tried hard to prevent Iran from going nuclear," Iranian state TV quoted Ahmadinejad as saying. "But Iran went nuclear and there will be no way back."
A diplomat familiar with the talks says the six powers will seek to nudge Iran toward acknowledging the need to reduce worries that the Islamic Republic might turn its enrichment program to making weapons. He asked for anonymity because the talks are closed.
Tehran denies such aspirations, insisting it wants only to make nuclear fuel.
But concerns have grown because its uranium enrichment program could also make fissile warhead material, because of its nuclear secrecy and also because it refuses to cooperate with attempts to investigate suspicions that it ran experiments related to making nuclear weapons.
Iran came to the table warning that it was in no mood to compromise.
"Resolutions, sanctions, threats, computer virus nor even a military attack will stop uranium enrichment in Iran," Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, told state TV.
The enrichment program has sparked UN Security Council sanctions, been targeted by the Stuxnet malvare virus - thought to have been manufactured by Israel or the U.S. - and has provoked the threat of military strikes from both America and Israel.
Ahead of the start of Friday's session, the diplomat said EU Foreign Affairs chief Catherine Ashton, speaking on behalf of Iran's six interlocutors, would urge the Iranian side in her opening address to recognize the need to discuss international concerns about Iran's nuclear program.
Ashton, he said, would renew a 2008 offer providing Iran technical and logistical support for peaceful nuclear activities as well as trade and other incentives in exchange for its willingness to focus on its atomic program.
One development to watch for, he said, would be readiness by Iranian chief negotiator Jalili to meet U.S. counterpart William Burns in a bilateral meeting. While the Iranians met several delegations at the Geneva talks, they refused a U.S. overture to sit down one-on-one in the Swiss city.
Meeting the Iranians are the five permanent UN Security Council members - the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France - plus Germany.