Tehran optimistic over talks with EU

TEHRAN (AP) — Iran said Sunday that a resumption of talks with Europe over Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme could lead to important results.
But Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi reiterated that Iran would not accept conditions to the talks, which broke off in August.

“If Europeans respect our right, we are optimistic about Iran-Europe talks,” Asefi told reporters, adding that Iran was entering the talks without any prejudgment. “Important talks could be held and important results could be gained.” Talks between Britain, France, Germany and Iran broke off in August after Tehran restarted uranium conversion.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Wednesday that talks would resume within the next two weeks.

No date has been set for a resumption of talks, which will be held on the level of senior experts, Asefi said.

“Iran follows logic. It has supported reasoning since the beginning. In fact, it was the other side who politicised the issue,” he said.

Asefi rejected the possibility of talking with the United States over the case.

“Negotiations with the United States are not on our agenda. There is no need for it. Actually the US intervention in the case is one of the reasons for its complexity.” Last week, the US State Department announced that Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Baghdad, had been authorised to meet with Iranian officials about Iraq. The United States and Iran have not had regular diplomatic relations since militant students seized the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979.

“It is clear why there is no need to talk with the United States over Iraq’s security, it is an Iraqi internal issue,” Asefi said. “It is related to Iraqi people. They are mature and wise enough to decide their own future. They have to construct their own future by themselves.” Iran has been under intense pressure to curb its nuclear programme, which the United States claims is part of an effort to produce weapons. Iran says its programme is aimed at generating electricity.

While Iran has frozen its enrichment programme, it restarted uranium conversion — a step towards enrichment — in August.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has warned Iran that its nuclear programme could be referred to the UN Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions on the country.

On Saturday, Iran approved a bill that would block international inspections of its atomic facilities if it is referred to the Security Council. The step strengthens the government’s hand in resisting international pressure to permanently abandon uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for either nuclear reactors or atomic bombs.

“Achieving results will be possible if Europe does not restrict Iran’s rights and if a reference for interpreting possible agreements is agreed upon in the new round of the talks,” state-run radio said in a commentary.

The United States and European Union want Iran to permanently halt uranium enrichment. But Tehran says the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty allows it to pursue a nuclear programme for peaceful purposes. It has said that it will never give up the right to enrich uranium to produce nuclear fuel.

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