Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad got embroiled in a fight among Iran’s ruling elite about nuclear concessions the Islamic Republic will make as part of a deal to lift sanctions.
Officials told Iran’s parliament last week that the government has agreed to allow international inspections of military sites under its supervision, according to the state-run Fars news agency. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had previously ruled out visits to army sites or interviews with nuclear scientists.
Justifying the concession, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that interviews with scientists had been going on under the previous government of Ahmadinejad. The former president, who according to Iranian media is planning a political comeback in next year’s parliamentary elections, responded furiously, calling Zarif’s statement a “pure lie.”
Iran’s hardline conservatives are increasingly vocal in their opposition to a nuclear accord, as talks with world powers build on last month’s framework agreement and move toward the June 30 deadline for a final deal. The proposals under discussion would ease the sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy, in return for curbs on atomic work. The next round of negotiations is due to start in the coming days.
Khamenei, the key decision-maker in Iran, has backed the pursuit of a deal and hasn’t commented on the latest dispute.
International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors have been trying to determine whether Iran researched nuclear warheads, which would undermine its assertion that the nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Ahmadinejad said in a statement that on his watch, “any meeting with or interview, or questioning of nuclear scientists by officials from IAEA was explicitly, officially and publicly forbidden.”
Hours later the Islamic Student News Agency backed up Zarif’s argument, publishing a story that cited IAEA documents showing the Iranian government under Ahmadinejad between 2005 and 2007 allowed the IAEA to investigate the Parchin military site, as well as access to nuclear scientists.
The issue of the interviews is contentious in Iran, where five scientists have been killed in separate attacks from 2010 to 2012.