Iranian and European officials today said they were eager to find a diplomatic solution to resolve the stand-off over Iran’s nuclear energy programme, which Iran’s foreign minister insisted was not being used to develop weapons.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters that moves by European Union governments and the United States to take the dispute to the UN Security Council were unjustified and unfair.
“Nuclear weapons are not in Iran’s defence doctrine,” Mottaki told reporters at a news conference held at the Iranian Embassy in Brussels. “We would like to enjoy our right to have nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”
“In our relations with Europe we have always been honest and completed our commitments. From the other side we do not have such an approach,” Mottaki said.
Mottaki, who was accompanied by two nuclear negotiators, was in Brussels for talks with senior European Union officials, including the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana. He also met briefly with Belgium’s Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht.
Parallel nuclear talks were also under way in Moscow, between Iranian and Russian officials.
Mottaki said that the 25-nation bloc and Washington had to put the option of sanctions to one side and concentrate on getting a negotiated settlement.
“The time for using language of threats is over, it’s time for negotiation,” Mottaki said. “We express our readiness for negotiations based on justice and a comprehensive compromise. We want to peacefully solve the problem. ... We are here to hear any new plans, any new proposal, any new ideas.”
The EU said it had “no wish to isolate Iran” and reiterated it too was looking for a diplomatic solution to the dispute.
“There remains a strong wish for a diplomatic solution. We have no wish to isolate Iran; we hope Iran will not choose to isolate itself,” said European Commission spokeswoman Emma Udwin.
Both the EU and Washington fear Tehran is using its nuclear energy programme to develop and build nuclear warheads.
In Moscow, talks were focused on a Russian offer to enrich uranium for Iran, in what is seen as a final opportunity for the Islamic regime to avoid the threat of international sanctions.
“If we reach to some compromise ... we can continue our cooperation from where we are now,” said Mottaki. “It means the research department continues its activity and Russia’s proposal is for major nuclear fuel production.”
He said the government in Tehran remained optimistic a deal could be reached.
“We are diplomats, we would like to be optimistic, definitely,” Mottaki said.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has reported Iran to the UN Security Council over its failure to address international concerns about its nuclear programme.
The Security Council is expected to consider taking steps against the country - including possible sanctions and other punitive measures – after the Vienna-based IAEA issues another report on Iran at a March 6 meeting of its 35-nation board of governors.
More than two years of negotiations with Europe ultimately failed to persuade Iran to give up parts of its nuclear programme that can be used in weapons production, namely the uranium enrichment process.
Iran recently announced it had resumed small-scale enrichment of uranium, showing it was determined to proceed with its atomic development.
Mottaki was to address a European Parliament committee later today, amid protests from some EU politicians over his country’s nuclear policy and human rights concerns.
“Mottaki should not be allowed to visit the European Parliament,” said Scottish Conservative deputy Struan Stevenson. “Democracy, freedom of speech and human rights are alien concepts in Iran.”
The EU-Iran relationship has soured in recent months after anti-Israel comments by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and attacks against EU diplomatic missions in Tehran following the publication of cartoons in Denmark depicting the Prophet Mohammed.