AFP: Iran said on Tuesday that its decision to freeze talks with world powers for two months relates only to its overall atomic programme and does not include discussions on a nuclear fuel deal.
By Jay Deshmukh
TEHRAN, June 29, 2010 (AFP) – Iran said on Tuesday that its decision to freeze talks with world powers for two months relates only to its overall atomic programme and does not include discussions on a nuclear fuel deal.
Moscow meanwhile said that Russia, France and the United States have asked the UN atomic watchdog to organise a meeting with Iran over the fuel deal on condition Tehran halts its 20 percent uranium enrichment programme.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme is separate from that of a proposed swap deal that would ensure a fuel supply for the Tehran research reactor.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday ruled out talks with the P5+1 world powers — Britain, France, Russia, China, the United States and Germany — on Tehran’s nuclear programme until the end of the Iranian month of Mordad, around late August.
Asked at a news conference Tuesday whether the freeze declared by Ahmadinejad includes discussions on the fuel swap deal, Mottaki replied: “The question of Mordad is (only) about the five-plus-one.
“Negotiations about the fuel swap are only about the fuel swap and negotiations with five-plus-one are about the common points of the proposed packages… these two things are separate,” he said.
The six world powers have offered to talk with Iran about its nuclear programme, especially its uranium enrichment drive, which they want halted fearing it is aimed at making weapons. Tehran strongly denies the allegation.
But Ahmadinejad said on Monday that the UN Security Council’s decision on June 9 to impose a fourth set of sanctions against Iran for refusing to halt the uranium enrichment work had made talks impossible in the short term.
“We are postponing the talks because of the bad behaviour and the adoption of the new resolution in the Security Council. This is a penalty, so that they (the world powers) are disciplined to learn the way of talking to other nations,” he said.
He, however, said that Iran was ready to talk on the fuel deal but did not clarify whether these discussions would be held in the next two months.
Iran has been separately engaged since October in talks with the US, Russia and France and in recent weeks with Brazil and Turkey over the nuclear fuel deal for the Tehran research reactor.
The US, Russia and France — part of the so-called Vienna group — have sent a list of questions to Iran regarding the latest version of the fuel deal which was proposed by Iran, Brazil and Turkey on May 17.
Mottaki said “the answer to the letters sent by the Vienna group is being prepared” and stressed Iran has been discussing the May 17 proposal with Brazil and Turkey.
The deal stipulates that Tehran will send 1,200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Russia and France to be supplied at a later date with 20 percent high-enriched uranium for the Tehran reactor.
“There have been contacts and communication between foreign ministers (of Iran, Brazil and Turkey) last week and we have concluded that this course should continue,” Mottaki said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the US, France and Russia have asked the International Atomic Energy Agency to arrange a meeting with Iranian experts over the fuel deal.
But he said the meeting was sought “under the understanding that Iran itself halts the 20 percent enrichment.”
“I expect Iran to respond constructively because it will allow us to settle the situation that generates concern,” Lavrov said Tuesday.
Turkey also called on Iran and Western powers to implement the fuel deal soon.
“If they do not sit down and talk, we will be in a worse-off situation this time next year. Time is working against a solution,” Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Burak Ozugergin said.
“President Ahmadinejad alluded to the month of August (for the talks). We wish they would take place sooner,” Ozugergin said.
World powers have been infuriated after Iran began producing 20 percent enriched uranium since February.
Mottaki said Iran’s production of 20 percent enrichment uranium was need based.
“Producing 20 percent enriched uranium is not something that countries do continuously. We have this capacity to produce today. When we need it, we produce it and when we don’t need it, we don’t produce it,” he said.
Enriched uranium is at the heart of Iran’s controversial nuclear drive as the material when refined to more than 90 percent level can be used to make atomic weapons.