Iran has the “undeniable right” to uranium enrichment, Tehran’s chief negotiator at talks in Baghdad with world powers, Saeed Jalili, told reporters on Thursday.
Peaceful nuclear energy and uranium enrichment is our absolute right. “Of the main topics in using peaceful nuclear, energy is the topic of having the nuclear fuel cycle and enrichment. We emphasize this right,” Jalili said.
“Of the main topics in using peaceful nuclear, energy is the topic of having the nuclear fuel cycle and enrichment. We emphasize this right,” he added.
Enrichment can be used for peaceful purposes but also to build a nuclear weapon, which has sparked international concern over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“Significant” differences remain between Iran and six world powers (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany), after two days of talks but there is also common ground, EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton said Thursday.
“It is clear that we both want to make progress, and that there is some common ground. However, significant differences remain,” Ashton told a news conference after the two sides agreed to meet again in Moscow on June 18-19.
Ashton spoke after two days of discussions in the Iraqi capital between envoys from Iran and six leading powers to try to defuse Western fears of a covert Iranian effort to develop nuclear bombs.
Iran indicated at the talks in Baghdad it is prepared to address the sensitive issue of getting Tehran to halt its enrichment of uranium to a fissile concentration of 20% -- which it started in 2010 and has since sharply expanded -- was a key priority for world powers.
“Iran declared its readiness to address the issue of 20% enrichment and came with its own five-point plan, including their assertion that we recognize their right to enrichment.”
The lower-grade uranium is the usual level required for nuclear power plants. Iran says it is producing 20% uranium to make fuel for a medical research reactor.
Tough talks aimed at helping resolve the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program entered an unscheduled second day earlier on Thursday with world powers and Tehran seemingly wildly at odds, as a U.N. watchdog report is expected to show that Iran has installed more uranium enrichment centrifuges at an underground site.
“They are positive but this is not our position. We need to find a common base in order to continue the negotiations,” an official with the Iranian delegation at the talks in Baghdad told AFP on Thursday. He added that the meeting could wrap up quickly, with the Chinese and Russian delegations keen to leave around that time.
On Wednesday, the P5+1 powers put a new package of proposals on the table that appeared to horrify the Iranians.
The official with the Iranian delegation, who wished to remain anonymous, called for the P5+1 to “revise” the offer, even saying that common ground was “not yet sufficient for another round” of talks after Baghdad.
The United States will not ease sanctions on Iran before a third round of talks between major powers and Iranian officials about Tehran’s nuclear program, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday.