iranian nuclear 298 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Iran said Tuesday it is willing to negotiate with world powers on the large-scale enrichment of uranium but will never give way on their key demand - to cease all enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for nuclear reactors or material for bombs.
The UN Security Council has demanded that Iran suspend all enrichment of uranium and last week asked the UN nuclear agency to report back in 30 days on whether Iran had complied.
However, Mottaki maintained Iran's line that it would not comply with the Security Council demand, saying the small-scale enrichment it began in February was strictly for research and was within its rights.
Iran would need large-scale enrichment to fuel a nuclear reactor. Enrichment makes uranium suitable for reactor use but, taken to a high degree, it becomes suitable for a nuclear bomb.
The United States and France have accused Iran of seeking enrichment as a part of a secret program to build nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying its nuclear ambitions are confined to the generation of electricity.
"The enrichment of uranium ... is Iran's right as defined as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty," Mottaki said. "One thing we can't give up and that is the right of the Iranian nation ... We can't hold a dialogue with any country about giving up our rights."
He added, however, that Iran was prepared to talk to the international community about large-scale enrichment.
Mottaki did not specify who Iran wants to hold negotiations with. The United States is facing calls from its European allies for it to enter direct talks with Iran to resolve the standoff.
Germany's foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, underlined his country's support for US-Iran nuclear talks ahead of a meeting in Washington on Tuesday with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"I think it is recognized here in Washington that the British and the German foreign ministers are positive on this question," he said.
State Department spokesman, Adam Ereli, said Monday that the cause of the standoff was "not because the United States isn't in negotiations" but because Iran was defying international pressure and "moving with apparently great determination to develop an enrichment capability."
"So don't suggest that the way to solve this is for the US to jump into negotiations. The way to resolve it is to get Iran to cease and desist from its active refusal to be a responsible member of the international community," Ereli said.
Iran and the United States have agreed to hold rare direct, high-level talks to discuss how to stabilize Iraq. While both sides have insisted the talks won't touch on the nuclear issue, US officials say they suspect Tehran is looking to open the door for nuclear talks.
Since the UN Security Council issued its demand, Iran has taken a stance of rejection - while playing up hopes for a negotiated solution.
Mottaki said there were two options for Iran's nuclear program: cooperation or confrontation. "Iran prefers the first option," he said.
On Monday, hard-line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the United States and Europe were "confused" if they thought they could stop Iran's nuclear ambitions. But he vowed his country's nuclear program would be "transparent" and under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN' s nuclear watchdog.