Iran Says It Has ‘Inalienable Right’ to Enrich Uranium

Iran is declaring that it has an “inalienable right” to enrich uranium, reasserting a stand that is rejected by world powers and may prevent a deal to resolve Western suspicions it seeks to build nuclear weapons.

Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaee, said in New York today that Iran’s position is that international law and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty guarantee its right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes and allow it to obtain nuclear-related technology from any country that’s signed the treaty.

The U.S. and its allies have said the treaty provides general assurances about the peaceful use of civilian nuclear technology, in compliance with international safeguards, not the specific right to enrich asserted by Iran. The enrichment process produces fuel for use in electric power reactors or, with further processing, for nuclear bombs.

Reading from a letter he said was sent yesterday to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton by Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, Khazaee said Iran was ready to “provide specific proposals” for talks planned July 3 in Istanbul with technical experts representing China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K. and U.S.

“Any gesture which damages the confidence building process would be counterproductive” and Iranian officials will give an “appropriate and proportional response,” Jalili wrote in the letter, a reference to an EU embargo on imports of Iranian oil sales effective July 1.

Khazaee said economic sanctions on Iran will lead to a “standoff” in negotiations.

Talks Stalled

High-level talks between world powers and Iran stalled this month in Moscow. A central issue in the negotiations is whether Iran will stop producing 20 percent enriched uranium, a level of purity a step short of bomb grade, and move current stockpiles out of the country to show it isn’t seeking the capability to produce nuclear weapons.

No date was set for resumption of the high-level negotiations, pending the outcome of the technical-level talks. Both Israel and the U.S. have threatened military strikes against Iran’s enrichment facilities if Iran fails to agree to steps to ensure it won’t be able to develop nuclear weapons capabilities.

Israel has demanded that Iran to give up all uranium enrichment so that it would not have the capability to produce bomb material. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on May 30 that Iran must be stopped before it develops a nuclear weapon and warned that the clock is “ticking faster” for Israel than it is for the U.S.

Sanctions Dispute

Khazaee said that if Western nations lift their unilateral and multilateral sanctions, Iran will discuss their concerns about an alleged military dimension to Iran’s nuclear program. Iran isn’t attempting to make nuclear weapons, he said.

The U.S. and EU have said they will not drop or ease sanctions until there is a deal with Iran that resolves the nuclear issues. Ashton said June 25 that EU sanctions on oil imports from Iran will begin on July 1 as agreed by the bloc’s governments.

Iran is the No. 2 producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries after Saudi Arabia, and earns more than half of its government revenue from oil sales, according to the International Monetary Fund. The EU collectively was the second-largest buyer of Iranian oil after China in the first half of 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

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