(photo credit: AP)
Iran's foreign minister on Tuesday insisted that his nation opposes atomic weapons, and only wants nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
"We are against nuclear weapons, and we do believe that the time for nuclear weapons is over," said Manouchehr Mottaki, appearing at a news conference with his Norwegian counterpart Jonas Gahr Stoere.
Mottaki's spoke in Oslo as Iran accepted an agenda compromise in Vienna, Austria that would allow a 130-nation nuclear arms control conference to begin after a six-day deadlock.
The foreign minister did not comment on that breakthrough, but told reporters that Iran "is a peace-loving nation."
Iran has been under pressure from Western powers and the U.N. Security Council to freeze uranium enrichment and other parts of its nuclear program that could be misused to make nuclear weapons.
Stoere said his talks with Mottaki focused on the nuclear program, human rights and demands that Iran accept the right of Israel to exist. Stoere said he saw potential for increased cooperation but "there are considerable obstacles on that road."
Among those obstacles are Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's repeated statements that Israel should be "wiped out" and that the Nazi genocide against European Jews was a "myth."
Mottaki drew a sharp reaction from Stoere when the Iranian attempted to downplay those remarks, suggesting that the Islamic world was punished for Europe's World War II crimes through the creation of the state of Israel.
"Nobody said we denied what happened in the Second World War," said Mottaki. "The question that my president raised is if this crime is happening in Europe ... why the Muslims should pay?"
Stoere replied, "The impressions created by these statements are real ... I am afraid there is no way to re-explain some of these statements."
A few dozen Iranian demonstrators opposed to the current regime in Tehran gathered outside the meeting at the foreign ministry.
Mottaki came to Norway after a similar visit to Sweden on Monday.