Iran says West’s hopes for nuclear agreement too high

UN access to suspected site still elusive; Ashton, Zarif to discuss stalled negotiations in Istanbul this week.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (L) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at talks in Vienna May 14, 2014. (photo credit: REUTERS)
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (L) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at talks in Vienna May 14, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Western governments expect too much from Iran in negotiations over its nuclear program, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday amid the stalled diplomatic effort.
Zarif is scheduled to meet in Istanbul this week with EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, coordinator of the Iran negotiations, to discuss the state of the talks underway in Vienna with a self-imposed deadline of July 20.
Iran and world powers at the negotiating table – the United States, United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany – have expressed public concern over the pace of progress.
Ashton hopes to break the impasse in her meeting with Zarif.
“They should stop demanding too much,” Zarif told state-run media in Iran.
“We have our red line, and they too want assurances that our nuclear program will always remain peaceful. We believe these two add up.”
Iran considers the right to enrich uranium for nuclear energy a red line, but levels of enrichment are negotiable.
The parties hope to achieve a comprehensive agreement easing international concerns over Iran’s nuclear work by the July deadline. They may, however, extend the talks up to six months, should all parties agree.
“I feel the realism awakened from the last round of talks will bring us closer to conclusion,” Zarif said.
Western powers believe Iran’s nuclear program has military dimensions, and thus seek to curb the Islamic Republic’s ability to forge ahead with weaponization by limiting its uranium enrichment capability, its heavy-water plutonium plant in Arak, and its research and development into nuclear weapons technology.
A confidential report by the International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran has begun engaging with a long-stymied IAEA inquiry into allegations that it may have worked on designing a nuclear weapon.
But Iran still refuses to give the UN agency access to a location at the Parchin base southeast of Tehran, where the military research facility is supposedly housed.
“It seems clear that there is more sanitization going on,” one Western envoy said, noting indications of major alteration work at Parchin since early 2012, such as soil removal and asphalting of the specific place the IAEA wants to see.
“I can think of no other explanation for 28 months of cleanup and denied IAEA access at Parchin except an attempt to hide all traces of something from IAEA environmental sampling.
Iran unveiled two locally made new air defense systems on Sunday. The command and control system, called Fakour, integrates data from various sources such as radars, lookouts and missile defense systems. According to Iran’s Tasnim News Agency, the system is mobile and includes electronic warfare capabilities.
The radar communications system called Rassoul transmits data securely to the nearest air defense unit or command and control center.
Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab-African Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian announced on Sunday that the country was sending monitors for Syria’s upcoming presidential election to be held next Tuesday, Iranian media reported.
He also said that Hamas leader Khaled Mashal has made positive remarks regarding Syria, citing Mashal’s statement about non-interference in Syrian affairs.
Asked about the meeting of Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba with the Iranian opposition movement, The People’s Mujahedeen of Iran’s (Mujahedeen-e-Khalq MEK) leader Masoud Rajavi in Paris, he responded that Jarba is weak politically and should not have a say on the future of Syria.
Regarding Egypt, Abdollahian said, “We are not pleased that Egypt has deviated from the path of democracy,” and that “Iran is concerned about the apprehension and imprisoning of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as popular Islamic movements in Egypt,” Fars reported.
Ariel Ben Solomon contributed to this report.