'Nuclear talks don't signal improved US relations'

Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization chief says another heavy-water nuclear reactor may be on the cards.

A general view of the Bushehr main nuclear reactor 311 R (photo credit: Reuters/ Raheb Homavandi)
A general view of the Bushehr main nuclear reactor 311 R
(photo credit: Reuters/ Raheb Homavandi)
After Iran agreed to resume nuclear talks with the US and its European allies, the nuclear issue dominated the Islamic Republic’s state press on Monday.
While some reports emphasized Iran’s agreement to renew negotiations did not imply any move to improve its relationship with Washington, others insisted the Islamic Republic was prepared to enrich uranium to 20 percent purity but no more.
According to the state-owned IRNA news agency, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization chief Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani said Sunday night that the country would carry out 20% uranium enrichment “just for its own needs” and not beyond that.
The nuclear chief announced in a TV interview that Iran wanted to stockpile the more enriched fuel after it had produced enough, IRNA said.
Abbasi added that perhaps this year Iran might build a research reactor for medical isotopes, should the parliament approve the budget, and that if so the remaining fuel might be used there.
In the past, Iran has said it is producing the 20% enriched fuel to replenish a small nuclear reactor in Tehran that is used to make medical isotopes.
The atomic energy agency chief said that Iran had begun production of “virtual” (non-uranium) fuel destined for its Arak heavy water nuclear plant, adding that the Islamic Republic had not undertaken its achievements in virtual fuel and in the creation of a small-scale fuel assembly for “propaganda purposes.”
Meanwhile on Monday, Iran’s state media moved to deny reports that the Islamic Republic was moving towards improved relations with the US. The hardline semiofficial Fars News Agency quoted Chief of Staff Seyed Hassan Firouzabadi, as he “categorically denied” that former president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani had called on Iranian leaders to resume talks with the US.
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In a recent interview in the Persian language International Studies Journal, Rafsanjani claimed that he told Ayatollah Khomeini in the 1980s that Iran should reevaluate its relationship with Washington.
In the Fars News report, Firouzabadi said only Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the power to make such a decision regarding the country’s relationship with the US, which he has not yet done.
In any case, the military commander added, Rafsanjani never made such a proposal to Khomeini.
The report also plays down Western media analysis that the US and its European allies are in a stronger position ahead of the nuclear talks.
“It is America who is strangling itself to open negotiations with Iran,” Firouzabadi said.
On Monday evening, Fars News reported that the US and Israel had secretly agreed that Iran could retain about 1,000 centrifuges for enriching uranium up to 3.5%, but said Iran refused that offer. Citing the Jerusalem-based website Debka File, the report says the alleged “Formula 1,000” agreement shows the US is retreating from its earlier demands.
Meanwhile, IRNA also reported an interview with a Pakistani religious scholar, Agha Murtaza Poya, who said that the renewed nuclear talks with the West were a “tremendous achievement” for Iran. According to the report, the Islamic scholar added that by agreeing to the renewed negotiations, the US had “clearly” shown that it refuses to help Israel.
The Iranian press also continued to maintain its rhetoric against any military action, with IRNA quoting Mohammad Pakpour, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards ground forces, as saying no country would dare to attack the Islamic Republic.