"We think that the other side and other parties should act with the understanding of the new realities," Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki said today in Tehran. "And if they have something new to say, we have always said that we are ready to take part in complete and full negotiations, without preconditions, to find a solution to the nuclear issue."
Mottaki's comes a day after President Mahmud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran is now capable of producing nuclear fuel on an industrial scale through enrichment.
The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Gholam Reza Aqazadeh, today said Tehran is seeking to install 50,000 centrifuges at a plant in central Iran. He suggested that 3,000 centrifuges had already been installed at the plant in Natanz.
Russia Skeptical, EU 'Concerned'
Russia today voiced skepticism about Iran's April 9 announcement. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said in a statement that Russia is unaware of any technological breakthroughs that would allow Iran to enrich uranium on an industrial scale.
The statement said Moscow had yet to receive confirmation of Tehran's claim.
"We are clarifying the situation, including in our contacts with experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency who are still working in Iran, as you know," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists in Moscow today. "So far we've had no confirmation that enrichment has in fact started at the new cascades."
The United States and European Union have renewed their calls for Iran to suspend uranium-enrichment activities.
Germany, which currently hold the EU Presidency, said today it viewed with "great concern" Iran's statement that it had achieved the means to enrich uranium on an industrial scale. The German Foreign Ministry said in a statement the EU was renewing its "urgent call" on Iran to meet the demands of the international community so that a negotiated solution can be found to the standoff over its nuclear program.
A spokeswomen for EU foreign-policy chief Javier Solana said there was no way to verify Iran's claims unless international inspections, now stalled, were fully resumed.
Two sets of UN sanctions have been imposed on Iran over its refusal to halt such work. Western nations suspect Iran's nuclear program is aimed at producing atomic weapons. Tehran denies this.
(compiled from agency reports)
WHAT DOES TEHRAN REALLY THINK? On August 22, Radio Farda correspondent Fatemeh Aman spoke with Alex Vatanka, Eurasia editor for Jane's Information Group, by telephone from Alexandria, Virginia. Vatanka discussed the possible impact that comprehensive sanctions could have for Iran.
Radio Farda: Some Iranian authorities are trying to create the impression that they aren't concerned about the possibility of international sanctions against it. They emphasize that what Iran has achieved so far has happened despite the sanctions already in place against it. Are they really not afraid of sanctions?
Vatanka: I think that what the Iranians are trying to do is to continue to play this balancing act. On the one hand, they are trying to say, "Look, we have done without you for 27 years; we can continue." On the other hand, if you look at every other major Iranian overture toward the U.S., obviously what they are hoping to do is remove those sanctions. It is the sanctions that have been the biggest obstacle to a genuine expansion in the Iranian economy. It is the sanctions and U.S. policies vis-a-vis Iran that have, for instance, kept Iran from joining the World Bank. It is sanctions and so on that have made the Iranian oil industry have such a tough time in bringing investment into the strategic oil and gas sectors. People like [former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi-]Rafsanjani back in the mid 1990s even kept certain fields untouched because the idea was that U.S. companies should have those once the sanctions were lifted.
I think sanctions are quite important to the Iranians, but at the same time what they are trying to say is, "Don't assume that we are going to fall off our chair just because you mentioned the sanctions card." It is part of a kind diplomatic chess game going on by Tehran. But remember if we look and listen to Iranian reformists, this is being openly debated inside Iran. The question that is being asked of [President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and his entourage] is, "What is the ultimate objective?" Is it just Islamic independence? Is it just the ability to enrich uranium? The debate in Iran by the reformists -- and I think a lot of people would sympathize with this -- is, "What are we being sanctioned for exactly and what policies do you have to make sure that those sanctions don't hit us harder than we have already been hit?"
Remember, the big issue here is this: Iran has been sanctioned by the U.S. Iran has never faced comprehensive United Nations sanctions. The Iranian people have never suffered on a scale that the Iraqi people, for instance, suffered because of such sanctions. So it is kind of disingenuous of these senior leaders to pretend that Iran has already gone through comprehensive sanctions. Iran has not. And it will be totally different set of circumstances that will have a totally different impact on Iranian society and the economy, should the UN impose comprehensive sanctions on the country.