BEIRUT

Middle East

Nuclear talks are the only way forward, Rouhani says

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif leaves a news conference in Vienna July 18, 2014. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

TEHRAN: More negotiations are the only solution to Iran’s decade-long nuclear standoff with the West, President Hassan Rouhani has said.

Rouhani’s remarks Tuesday were his first on the four-month extension until November of talks with world powers agreed in Vienna last week after the two sides said progress made so far was still short of a final breakthrough.

“Negotiations are the only way that is before us and we are hopeful of success in these negotiations,” Rouhani was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council – Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S. – plus Germany want to render Iran incapable of developing atomic weapons capability.

In exchange, Iran wants painful sanctions choking its economy lifted, with negotiators insisting they also seek to preserve what Tehran calls its right to a civilian atomic program.

Influential Iranian MP Aladin Borujerdi welcomed the four-month extension Sunday, saying it showed all sides “have the will to reach a comprehensive agreement.”

The main sticking point in the negotiations is believed to be Iran’s insistence on developing a uranium enrichment capacity that is far higher than what the Western powers regard as acceptable.

Such capacity, Iran contends, would guarantee fuel for its sole nuclear power plant in Bushehr after the current supply contract with Russia expires in 2021.

The process of enriching uranium can produce fuel for reactors but also the core of a nuclear bomb if purified to higher levels. Iran has always denied that it is pursuing an atomic bomb.

The final say on Iran’s nuclear activities and its negotiating decisions rests with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the ultimate authority in the Islamic Republic.

The U.N. atomic agency said Monday that Iran had eliminated all of its most sensitive nuclear material in line with an interim deal that was struck with the West last November and implemented in January.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 23, 2014, on page 10.

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