(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that his government “won’t allow foreigners to carry out any inspections on military sites,” doubling down on a key sticking point in talks with world powers over its nuclear program.
Speaking with state-run media, Khamenei also said Iran would not allow foreign governments or agencies to interview its scientists – an inspections requirement set out by the United States, intended to shed light on Tehran’s possible military nuclear work.
“I will not permit aliens to come and interview with scientists who have gotten the domestic nuclear knowledge to this level,” Khamenei said at Imam Hossein University.
“They should realize that Iran’s response to any evil move will be very harsh.”
Khamenei’s comments are not new: He has set out both conditions in recent months, which his deputies in the Iranian government have characterized as redlines in the nuclear talks.
The supreme leader, who has the final say for Iran on any deal, last month ruled out any “extraordinary supervision measures” over nuclear activities and said military sites could not be inspected.
The US, Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and Iran are negotiating toward a comprehensive nuclear accord, working toward a deadline of June 30.
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Talks will continue at the deputy political level in Vienna on Thursday.
After a political agreement framing the nuclear talks was announced in Lausanne last month, White House officials made clear that both demands had to be met in final nuclear accord: Both access to scientists, as well as to sites suspected of hosting past experiments in nuclear weaponization.
Specifically, the White House says it is hard to imagine a final deal that does not include access to Parchin, a military facility in northern Iran, which International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors have sought access to since 2005.
Iran reached a tentative deal with the powers on April 2 to allow UN inspectors to carry out more intrusive, short-notice inspections under an “Additional Protocol” to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But there have been sharply differing interpretations from both sides on the details of that access.
Negotiators from Iran and the powers will meet in Vienna on Wednesday to try to iron out remaining differences, including the timing of sanctions relief and the future of Iran’s atomic research and development program.
Talks between EU political director Helga Schmid and Iranian negotiators Abbas Araqchi and Majid Takht-Ravanchi will run until Friday, with experts meeting in parallel to discuss technical annexes, the EU said in a statement.
Meanwhile, UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday announced talks between warring Yemeni parties in Geneva on May 28 to end over seven weeks of war, as Iran agreed for international inspections of an aid ship sailing to Yemen.
The moves are aimed at defusing the crisis in the Arabian Peninsula, where Saudi- led forces killed at least 15 Houthis in the latest strikes in a campaign to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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