x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Iran ready to resolve nuclear issues if West starts lifting sanctions

Ali Akbar Salehi, the Iranian foreign minister, hints that Tehran could make concessions on its higher-grade uranium enrichment.

Iran is ready to resolve all nuclear issues in the next round of talks with world powers if the West starts lifting sanctions, its foreign minister said yesterday.

In an interview with the Iranian student news agency ISNA, Ali Akbar Salehi also hinted that Iran could make concessions on its higher-grade uranium enrichment, a key concern of western powers.

"If the West wants to take confidence-building measures it should start in the field of sanctions because this action can speed up the process of negotiations reaching results," Mr Salehi was quoted as saying.

"If there is goodwill, one can pass through this process very easily and we are ready to resolve all issues very quickly and simply and even in the Baghdad meeting," he said, referring to a second round of talks with world powers scheduled to take place in the Iraqi capital on May 23.

Mr Salehi described an initial meeting with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany in Istanbul on Saturday as positive and constructive.

The talks had been stalled for more than a year during which time the United States and the European Union tightened sanctions on Iran which they suspect is seeking nuclear weapons capability, a charge Tehran denies.

Mr Salehi said Iran would always assert its right to process uranium for peaceful purposes but that there might be room for a compromise on higher-level enrichment.

"Enrichment is Iran's right but we can negotiate on how we obtain uranium with different enrichment levels," he said.

"Making 20 per cent (enriched nuclear) fuel is our right as long as it provides for our reactor needs and there is no question about that." But, "if they guarantee that they will provide us with the different levels of enriched fuel that we need, then that would be another issue".

Iran says it needs uranium enriched to a purity of 20 per cent to fuel a medical research reactor, but many countries see its enrichment to that level a dangerous step towards the 90 per cent enrichment needed for an atom bomb.

A deal tentatively agreed with the West in 2009 would have seen Iran exporting some of its lower enriched uranium in return for fuel for the medical reactor. The deal unravelled and diplomats on both sides have said it would need to be modified in any future agreement.