AFP: Iran plans to hold talks with all 15 members of the UN Security Council in an effort to break a deadlock over a nuclear fuel deal, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Sunday. By Farhad Pouladi
TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran plans to hold talks with all 15 members of the UN Security Council in an effort to break a deadlock over a nuclear fuel deal, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Sunday.
Mottaki said the deal could be finalised in "two weeks" if all sides showed the necessary will.
"In the coming days, we have plans to have direct talks with 14 members of the Security Council and one (set of) indirect talks with a member," he said, in reference to Washington which does not have diplomatic ties with Tehran.
"The talks will focus on the fuel exchange (deal). They will be conducted by Iran's missions in those countries," he told a press conference after a two-day nuclear disarmament conference hosted by Tehran.
An October 2009 UN-drafted deal to supply nuclear fuel for a Tehran research reactor by shipping out Iran's low-enriched uranium in return for higher-grade nuclear fuel produced by Russia and France has hit a deadlock.
The two groups are now at loggerheads as Iran insists it will only be open to a simultaneous exchange to take place inside the Islamic republic, a condition rejected by the world powers.
Washington is leading global efforts to impose a fourth set of UN sanctions against Iran amid the deadlock, in a bid to halt Tehran's nuclear programme which it suspects masks a weapons drive, a charge denied by Iran.
While the United States, Britain and France have shown readiness for new sanctions, the other two UN veto-wielding members — Russia and China — have been hesitant to back such a proposal.
Mottaki said a deal was still possible.
"In principle the issue of fuel exchange has been agreed upon … We think … details could be worked out," he said, adding that the deal could be operational "within two weeks."
Tensions have risen further after Washington last week unveiled its new nuclear policy which officials in Tehran say raises a "nuclear threat" against their country.
Mottaki said any attack against Iran would be like "playing with fire."
"Those who think of attacking Iran are playing with fire. They will very well realise the consequences of their actions," English-language Press TV quoted him as saying at the press conference.
"We don't believe they will attack. We do not see they have the capacity on the ground."
The New York Times reported on Sunday that US Defence Secretary Robert Gates warned in a secret memo in January that Washington lacked an effective strategy for dealing with Iran's alleged nuclear weapons push.
Citing unnamed government sources, it said a senior official described it as "a wake-up call" that had sparked efforts in the Pentagon, the White House and the intelligence agencies to develop new options for President Barack Obama.
The memo urged the White House to consider options on how to contain Iran if it decided to produce a weapon and how to deal with the possibility that nuclear fuel or arms could be obtained by one of the militant groups it backs.
Options reportedly included a secret military operation against Iran if international sanctions fail.
Earlier on Sunday, in his closing remarks at the Tehran nuclear conference, Mottaki said the forum had rejected any attack on civilian atomic sites as a "violation of international laws."
The Tehran conference discussed the need to "move toward regions stripped of weapons of mass destruction, especially in the Middle East," and for Israel to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), he said.
Israel, which has never ruled out attacking Iran's controversial nuclear sites, is widely believed to be the Middle East's sole but undeclared nuclear weapons power.
Washington too has not ruled out a strike on Iran.
On Saturday, Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei branded the United States the world's "only atomic criminal," while President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for Washington to be "suspended" from the UN nuclear watchdog.