AFP, WASHINGTON: Iran has a “legitimate right” to nuclear technology and has no plans to permanently halt uranium enrichment, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi told Time magazine.
Iran agreed in November last year to suspend its fuel cycle work — the focus of international fears the country may be seeking nuclear weapons — and open talks with Britain, France and Germany.
Kharazi's comments in an interview with Time, published Sunday, but conducted last week, supported repeated comments from Tehran that it will resume uranium enrichment work if an agreement is not reached with the European Union.
Iran said Sunday it was preparing a bill to ratify a key nuclear protocol but also stood firm on its intention to resume sensitive nuclear fuel work despite intense international pressure.
Asked if there were any circumstances that could lead to a permanent freeze on uranium enrichment, Kharazi replied: “There will not be any permanent freeze, because (it) is our legitimate right to have this (nuclear) technology and produce what we need for the country. No incentive can substitute for our legitimate right.”
The clerical regime has voiced frustration over its negotiations with the three European states, who have offered a package of incentives in return for “objective guarantees” from Iran that it will not develop weapons.
Iran has also repeatedly said it will resume uranium enrichment work if an agreement is not reached with the European Union.
Uranium conversion is a process that turns raw “yellowcake” into the feed gas that can then be refined in centrifuges in the enrichment process — which in turn can make fuel for nuclear reactors, or constitute the explosive core of atomic bombs.
“Our engagement with the European side was not to stop enrichment but to continue with enrichment in a manner that would assure the other side that we would not divert material for weapons,” Kharazi told Time.
Asked about the possibility of UN sanctions, the minister replied: “If for political reasons, the Americans want to push an Iranian foreign policy to the Security Council … I dont think that would lead to any result that would be wished by the Americans.”
He added that Iran was used to sanctions, and that it had managed to exist under such measures.
“Americans make allegations that Iran is pursuing a nuclear-weapons program without being able to prove it.”
Quizzed about media reports that pilotless US drones have conducted overflights of Iranian soil, Kharazi replied: “There are such rumors. If true, it proves that the US is violating our sovereignty. And it certainly cannot be tolerated.”
On the topic of Al-Qaeda, Kharazi said Iran had taken some Al-Qaeda operatives into custody, but he did not identify how many operatives Tehran was holding or divulge any identities.
“There are a bunch of them (in Iran). They are in custody, and certainly we will take care of them.”
He added that Tehran was firmly against the establishment of permanent US military bases in neighboring Iraq.
“We are against that. That is not in the interest of anyone,” Kharazi said.