Iran said on Tuesday it would not discuss a previously secret nuclear plant at international talks this week, but Washington vowed to bring it up and demanded Tehran prove it is not developing an atomic weapon.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, asked about Iran’s insistence it would not discuss the facility in the Geneva talks, declared: “What is undeniable is that a plant was constructed in violation of their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, something they’ve signed with the IAEA, as well as UN Security Council resolutions,” said Gibbs.
“We will demand that IAEA inspectors have unfettered access to the facility, to personnel, to documents surrounding the facility,” he added.
I think it will show the world, and I think the onus is on the Iranians to show the world, that the program that they have is for - is a peaceful program to create energy, rather than a secret program for nuclear weapons,” said Gibbs. “I think if the Iranians are unwilling to discuss something that should have been reported to the IAEA years ago, I think that’s quite telling.”
Iran meanwhile cautioned Western powers it could curb cooperation further if they repeated “past mistakes”.
Iranian MP Mohammad Karami Rad suggested parliament might seek withdrawal from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) if Thursday’s Geneva talks with major powers fail and “if the Zionists and America continue their pressure on Iran” - a reference to policies including economic sanctions.
The Islamic Republic’s nuclear energy agency chief said on Tuesday that Iran would not discuss any issues related to its nuclear “rights” at its meeting with six world powers in Geneva on Thursday.
Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, made clear this included a newly disclosed uranium enrichment plant which has drawn Western condemnation.
His comments seemed certain to disappoint the United States which has called on Iran to come clean about its nuclear program. Israel, the U.S. and other Western nations suspect the program is aimed at making bombs; Tehran insists it is for purely civilian purposes.
“We are not going to discuss anything related to our nuclear rights, but we can discuss about disarmament, we can discuss about non-proliferation and other general issues,” Salehi told a news conference.
“The new site is part of our rights and there is no need to discuss it,” he said, adding Tehran would not abandon its nuclear activities “even for a second”.
The United States and its Western allies have made clear they will focus on Iran’s nuclear program at the Geneva meeting. Iran has offered wide-ranging security talks.
Nonetheless, an aide to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday that Iran wanted Thursday’s talks to be successful.
“The Geneva talks are a golden and a unique opportunity for the American government,” Ali Akbar Javanfekr, Ahmadinejad’s press adviser, said in a statement to Reuters.
“These talks between Iran and world powers can open a new window of understanding and cooperation based on justice and peace for both sides,” he said.
He also stressed that the West had to change its approach towards the Islamic Republic.
“These talks are a very precise test to prove the West’s honesty and their commitment to change,” Javanfekr said. “After these talks the ball will be in the West’s, and especially America’s, court.”
Iran to set time soon for inspection of second nuke site
Salehi was earlier quoted as saying that Iran would soon inform the United Nations nuclear watchdog of a timetable for inspection of the new plant, its second uranium enrichment facility.
“Yes, the inspectors will come and inspect,” Salehi said, adding Tehran was in constant contact with the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
“We are working out a timetable for the inspection and we will soon be writing a letter to them about the location of the facility and others,” he said, without elaborating.
The exposure of a second nuclear fuel facility, under construction south of Tehran, added urgency to the rare meeting in Geneva on Thursday.
Iran conducted missile tests on Sunday and Monday, further ratcheting up the tension with Western powers.
U.S. President Barack Obama has demanded that Iran come clean on its disputed nuclear program and a White House spokesman on Monday urged “immediate unfettered access” to the new site.
Iran has rejected Western condemnation of the new facility, saying it is legal and open to investigation to the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Press TV, Iran’s English-language state television, said Salehi had noted that the plant was under construction within the framework of IAEA regulations, saying, “Iran has taken all the precautionary steps to safeguard its nuclear facilities.”
Citing its interview with Salehi, Press TV added: “Iran says it will soon inform the International Atomic Energy Agency of a timetable for inspection of its recently announced nuclear facility.”
“Salehi said that his country will try to resolve the issue both politically and technically with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) and the IAEA,” Press TV said on its website.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, told the BBC on Monday he had had a couple of meetings with IAEA inspectors and it was agreed they would be given access to the site “in the near future”. He gave no date.
The United States and its Western allies have made clear they will focus on Iran’s nuclear program at the Geneva meeting. Iran has offered wide-ranging security talks but says it will not discuss its nuclear “rights.”
Israel, the U.S. and other Western nations suspect Iran is trying to develop a nuclear bomb capability. Iran, a major oil producer, says its nuclear work is solely for generating electricity.
“It is against our tenets, it is against our religion to produce, use, hold or have nuclear weapons or arsenal, how can we more clearly state our position, since 1974 we have been saying this,” Press TV quoted Salehi as saying.
Iran parliament warns against foreign pressure
Also on Tuesday, Iranian lawmakers warned the U.S. and other world powers against further pressures over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program, just days ahead of the key international meeting.
Iran’s parliament lashed out at criticism over the previously unknown uranium enrichment facility, but did not elaborate on what action would be taken if the pressure continued.
“If the 5+1 repeats the past mistakes, the parliament will put other decisions on agenda,” lawmakers said in a statement, referring to the five members of the Security Council and Germany.
Parliament’s warning could refer to a bill awaiting ratification in parliament that calls on the government to speed up its uranium enrichment activities.
This story "U.S. to Iran: Prove That You're Not Developing Nukes" was written by Natasha Mozgovaya (Haaretz).