|Iran will address all Western concerns about its nuclear program: negotiator||
TEHRAN – In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Monday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht-Ravanchi said that Iran stands by its pledge to address all Western concerns about its nuclear program, insisting the country has “nothing to hide.”
However he said his government does not want to bring issues up front that should be dealt with at a later stage.
Iran is currently engaged in two separate negotiations on its nuclear activities. One track is international talks with the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) aimed at a comprehensive deal to end the decade-long dispute over the country’s nuclear program.
A second track, led by the International Atomic Energy Agency, deals with concerns about Iran’s past and present nuclear activities. It includes investigation by the United Nations nuclear agency about “possible military dimension” of Tehran’s nuclear program. Iran pledged last November to start addressing those issues.
“We are prepared to implement the agreement reached with IAEA, but it takes some time,” Mr. Takht-Ravanchi said. “We understand that there are sensitive issues...of concern to the other side, but you have to take one step at a time. You should not rush.”
Tehran recently agreed to address for the first time one area of concern -- agreeing to provide information and explanations by May 15 to allow the IAEA to assess possible work on detonators.
Western diplomats said at the time there are many other issues Tehran should urgently tackle, including giving the IAEA access to the sprawling military site of Parchin, where the IAEA claims Iran may have carried out sensitive explosives work.
Mr. Takht-Ravanchi confirmed that Iran would consider ratifying the IAEA’s Additional Protocol if there is a final nuclear deal with the six powers. That would give the IAEA greater information about Iran’s activities and allow the agency broader inspections rights.
But he stressed the final decision would depend on Iran’s parliament. Iran signed the protocol in 2003 but renounced it three years later.
“If the negotiations go very fast, naturally we (will) somehow give some more speed to our work with the agency, but we have to be careful,” Mr. Takht-Ravanchi said.
Iran has repeatedly said its nuclear activities are for purely peaceful purposes.
Iran and the six powers prepare to resume talks on a full nuclear deal March 18 in Vienna.
Takht-Ravanchi criticized U.S. officials for their repeated warnings about a possible military option against Iran and for playing down the benefits for Tehran of last November’s interim nuclear deal that eased sanctions.
“We have said it plainly to the Americans publicly and in private, that things might get out of hand. We cannot guarantee that if they continue with this sort of rhetoric...we will be on a proper track” in the talks.
Elsewhere in his remarks, he said Iran is ready to hold talks with the European Union aimed at facilitating humanitarian aid deliveries to Syria, and stands ready to do whatever needed to improve the situation.
Iran has been criticized by the West for its strong support for the government of President Bashar al-Assad. But Western diplomats acknowledge Tehran played a significant role in brokering a deal last month allowing aid deliveries to reach a besieged, rebel-held quarter of the city of Homs.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton used her first visit to Iran last weekend to ask Tehran to redouble efforts to facilitate humanitarian aid. Iran has held talks with Switzerland and Syria on improving the situation.
Iran denies playing a military role in the Syrian conflict. Tehran was left on the sidelines of the recent Geneva peace talks on Syria but privately many European diplomats believe Iran needs to be at the table in some form to facilitate a peace deal.
While Mr. Takht-Ravanchi said Iran could step up help with humanitarian assistance, he gave no signal Tehran would urge Mr. Assad to step down.
“It is not for Iran to decide about the future of Syria, the Syrians themselves should take up the matter and they should decide what they want to do and who should be their president,” he said.
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