Iran: Wider talks with US possible if 2015 deal implemented
Inspections show Iran does ‘not seek’ nuclear weapon
The United States offered to remove all sanctions on Iran in exchange for talks, but Tehran has not yet accepted the offer due to the current “toxic atmosphere,” President Hassan Rouhani said on Friday.
Rouhani, speaking to reporters at Tehran's Mehrabad airport on his return from the UN General Assembly in New York, said Germany, Britain and France insisted that a meeting be held between the presidents of Iran and the US.
“It was up for debate what sanctions will be lifted and they (the United States) had said clearly that we will lift all sanctions,” Rouhani said.
Iran was ready to negotiate but not in an atmosphere of sanctions and pressure, the Iranian president said.
“This action was not in a manner that was acceptable, meaning that in the atmosphere of sanctions and the existence of sanctions and the toxic atmosphere of maximum pressure, even if we want to negotiate with the Americans in the 5+1 framework, no one can predict what the end result of this negotiation will be,” he said.
Rouhani did not meet with US President Donald Trump in New York and European officials expect Washington to keep tightening the vice on Iran’s economy.
Rouhani said on Thursday that Iran can discuss other issues with the US, providing that the nuclear deal is fully implemented.
“First, the deal should be fully implemented ... meaning that sanctions should be lifted and America should return to the nuclear deal ... and then other issues can be discussed as well,” Rouhani said.
“We want America to remove its preconditions for talking to Iran, including its ‘maximum pressure’ policy against the Iranian nation” before any talks can be possible, he said at a news conference in New York.
Trump said on Friday he had refused a request by Tehran to lift sanctions in exchange for talks.
“Iran wanted me to lift the sanctions imposed on them in order to meet. I said, of course, NO!” Trump tweeted.
The United States and Iran are at odds over a host of issues, including the US withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, US accusations - denied by Tehran - that Iran attacked two Saudi oil facilities on Sept. 14, and Iran’s detention of US citizens on what the United States regards as spurious grounds.
Iran has distanced itself from the Saudi attacks, warning that it was ready for a “full-fledged” war in case of foreign aggression.
“We are innocent and had no involvement in the attack ... therefore we should not provide evidence to prove it. Those who blame Iran should provide evidence,” Rouhani said on Thursday.
On Friday, Rouhani said the European countries, who had blamed Iran for the attacks on Saudi oil facilities, have told him they did not know who was really behind the raid.
Rouhani said during the trip to New York, he questioned some European leaders about their recent anti-Iran statement, in which they had somehow claimed Iran was responsible for the attacks on Aramco facilities.
“I asked them on what basis and evidence they were making such an allegation against Iran. I frankly and firmly told them to send me the evidence as I needed it,” Rouhani said.
“They replied based on the investigations conducted by their experts, the capabilities of Yemenis, or as they say the Houthis, are less than [what required for] this operation,” he added.
“I said alright, let’s suppose they were not that much capable. Then who did it? They said they didn’t know, but the attack had been launched from the north and the west” of Yemen, Rouhani said.
Rouhani said he questioned the logic of the Europeans’ argument, and told them they lacked enough information about the Yemenis’ capabilities.
“I told them your information about the enemies of Yemen is very much, because you provide their arms. But you don’t know about the capabilities of the Yemenis and the Houthis,” he added.
Meanwhile, Trump wants to go beyond the Iran nuclear deal to further curb Tehran’s nuclear program, halt its ballistic missile work and end its activities in the Middle East.
But Rouhani, stating Iran’s official stance, said the country’s defensive missile program was non-negotiable.
Nuclear inspections in place
The US withdrew from the landmark deal between Iran and world powers last year in May and reimposed tough sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
A year after the US pullout, Iran began to cut its commitments to the nuclear agreement in a gradual fashion.
However, Rouhani said Tehran’s measures were reversible if the European parties to the pact carried out their promises to shield Iran’s economy from US sanctions.
“The European parties have proved their inability or lack of determination ... to keep the deal alive in practice… They want to save the pact, but they want Iran to pay the cost for it,” said Rouhani.
Rouhani said on Friday that Iran's abidance by nuclear inspections proves it does not seek to develop atomic weapons despite having scaled back its compliance with the accord.
"Some were saying this third step, that you want to set up modern centrifuges, means that you are moving towards a nuclear weapon," Rouhani said.
"We explained that someone who wants a nuclear weapon... limits comprehensive inspections. We have not reduced inspections," he said.
Iran fired up advanced centrifuges to boost its enriched uranium stockpiles on September 7 as the latest scaling back of commitments under the crumbling nuclear deal.
The Islamic Republic acted on a threat to further abandon its nuclear commitments based on a deadline it set for European powers to act to shield it from US sanctions.
Rouhani stressed all Iran's nuclear activities would continue to be monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Britain, France and Germany have repeatedly said they are committed to saving the deal that gave Iran relief from sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, but their efforts have so far borne little fruit.
Tehran has already hit back twice with countermeasures in response to the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
On July 1, Iran said it had increased its stockpile of enriched uranium to beyond a 300-kilogram maximum set by the deal.
A week later, it announced it had exceeded a 3.67-percent cap on the purity of its uranium stocks.
British media reported on Friday that the three EU countries had warned Iran against any further rollback on its commitments to the international nuclear deal.
According to the Guardian, the European Union privately warned Iran that it will be forced to start withdrawing from the nuclear deal in November if Tehran goes ahead with its threat to take new steps away from the deal.
The three EU signatories to the deal, Britain, France and Germany, said according to BBC, they would trigger a special dispute mechanism if there were further violations.
The warning was issued at a meeting with Iranian ministers on the fringes of the UN General Assembly in New York earlier this week.
If the dispute mechanism is triggered, the entire nuclear agreement could collapse and the UN could reinstate sanctions on Iran, which would be applied by all member states.
Advanced machines up and running
The UN's nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, confirmed on Thursday that Iran has started using advanced models of centrifuges to enrich uranium,
Advanced centrifuges at Iran's Natanz facility "were accumulating, or had been prepared to accumulate, enriched uranium", the IAEA said in a report.
The centrifuges concerned are 20 IR-4 centrifuges and a further two "cascades" of 30 IR-6 centrifuges, the report said.
The IAEA report said that Iran was also pressing ahead with previously reported plans to install further cascades of advanced centrifuges.
Under the 2015 deal, Tehran is only meant to enrich uranium using less efficient IR-1 centrifuges.
The IR-4 and IR-6 models can produce enriched uranium much faster than the IR-1 models.
A senior diplomat in Vienna, where the IAEA is based, said that the latest change "will increase (Iran's) rate of accumulation" of uranium but cautioned that "it's a small number of centrifuges in small cascades".
The machines in question "are not run for production continuously", the source said.
The diplomat added that there had been "no change" in Iran's level of cooperation with the IAEA, and that the agency continued "to receive access to all the sites" it needed to visit.
Reuters, AFP and Press TV contributed to this story.