Iran seeks end to sanctions at talks, hits out at France (REUTERS) By Fredrik Dahl and Marcus George 05/02/12 11:55am EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - Iran said on Wednesday it would seek an end to sanctions
over its nuclear activities at talks with big powers later this month
and it sought to turn the tables on its Western foes by accusing
France of helping Israel develop "inhumane nuclear weapons."
An adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the
negotiations in Baghdad on May 23 should lead to the lifting of
punitive measures on Tehran, Iranian media reported.
The comments reflect a hardening public line in the Islamic Republic
that an end to sanctions is vital to the success of the talks. It was
also the first time an influential political figure explicitly said
he expects progress on the issue.
"At the least, our expectation is the lifting of sanctions," Gholam-
Ali Haddad Adel was quoted by Iranian media as saying.
However, the United States and its allies have made clear Tehran must
take action to allay their concerns about its nuclear ambitions
before they can consider relaxing sanctions.
They say Iran´s nuclear program is a cover for developing atomic
bombs and want verifiable assurances to the contrary from Tehran -
for example, by accepting much more intrusive U.N. nuclear
inspections and curbing its enrichment capacity.
Iran denies having a weapons agenda, saying it is enriching uranium
solely for peaceful energy purposes.
Western states have imposed expanded, more biting sanctions against
Iran´s energy and banking sectors since the beginning of this year.
The European Union is preparing to slap a total embargo on the
purchase of Iranian crude oil in July.
In Vienna, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Mahdi Akhondzadeh
said nuclear weapons have no place in Iran´s defense doctrine, and
accused "certain" states of double standards and hypocrisy, in a
clear reference to Tehran´s Western critics.
He took aim at France, a pivotal player in tightening sanctions on
Iran, accusing it of having assisted Israel in developing nuclear
weapons decades ago. The Jewish state is widely reputed to have the
Middle East´s only nuclear arsenal.
France, a big exporter of civilian nuclear technology, built in the
1950s an Israeli reactor in the southern desert town of Dimona, a
complex widely believed to have produced atomic bombs.
"While certain countries such as France express concerns over
peaceful nuclear activities of Iran ... they have spared no effort in
helping Israel ... to develop inhumane nuclear weapons," Akhondzadeh
"Indeed, France is the founder of Israel´s clandestine nuclear
weapons program," he told a meeting convened to discuss the nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a voluntary 1970 pact.
IRAN "OPTIMISTIC" ABOUT TALKS
Israel, which is outside the NPT, neither confirms nor denies it has
nuclear weapons, under a policy of ambiguity designed to deter
regional Arab and Iranian adversaries but avoid arms races.
"The existence of nuclear weapons in the hands of ... Israel
continues to pose the gravest threat to the stability and security"
in the Middle East, Akhondzadeh said.
The United States and Israel regard Iran´s nuclear ambitions as the
main threat to peace in the volatile region, prompting persistent
speculation they might attack its atomic sites if diplomacy fails to
resolve the long-running dispute.
France´s representative at the two-week NPT meeting in Vienna said on
Monday Iran, one of the world´s leading oil exporters, for "far too
many years" had pursued an enrichment program without "any credible
Ambassador Elissa Golberg of Canada, a staunch ally of Israel, told
delegates on Wednesday that Iranian activities could "only be
understood in the context of a nuclear weapons development effort".
Akhondzadeh said the existence of nearly 23,000 nuclear warheads in
the world and their continued modernization was the "most serious
threat to the survival of mankind" and the nuclear weapons states
should agree a date to eliminate them.
The five recognized nuclear weapons states are the United States,
Russia, China, France and Britain - the same powers which together
with Germany are putting pressure on Tehran to scale back its uranium
Akhondzadeh said Iran was "optimistic" about progress in the
negotiations in Baghdad, but it would never give up its right to the
peaceful use of atomic energy. Several U.N. Security Council
resolutions call on Iran to suspend all enrichment-related work.
The talks with the powers resumed in mid-April in Istanbul after more
than a year - a chance to halt a deterioration in diplomacy and help
avert the threat of a new Middle East war.
Western governments have credited the escalation of sanctions against
Iran´s financial institutions as instrumental in forcing Tehran back
to the negotiating table.
European diplomats have said an EU oil embargo is a valuable tool and
is unlikely to be lifted unless tangible progress is made at the
"I hope the Baghdad negotiations complete the talks that took place
in Istanbul, and the other side should take note that it should use
rational behavior with Iran and (the) country will never surrender to
pressure," Fars news agency quoted Haddad Adel as saying.
(Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by Mark
Heinrich) (© Thomson Reuters 2012. 05/02/12)
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