December 4, 2020
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Saturday dampened the possibility for a breakthrough in next week's scheduled international talks over Tehran's nuclear program, blaming Washington for pursuing a confrontational policy towards his country instead of genuine diplomacy.
Mr. Mottaki—speaking at a regional security conference here a day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington remained committed to negotiations with Tehran—said that his government wouldn't back down from its policy of enriching nuclear fuel on its own territory.
That sets up a diplomatic showdown in Geneva for the talks, set to start Monday, which U.S. officials see as another step in President Barack Obama's policy of diplomatic outreach to the Islamic Republic. The U.S. and others believe that Iran is attempting to build a nuclear weapon, while Iran says it wants nuclear power for civilian purposes.
In recent days, U.S. officials have expressed confidence that a strengthened international economics-sanctions regime, put into place earlier this year, has helped to bring Iran back to the negotiating table.
Mr. Mottaki countered that view, saying that sanctions haven't resulted in material hardship for his nation, nor have they isolated Tehran from the international community. He said his government is participating in next week's talks because of its long-standing commitment to international cooperation on its nuclear program.
"Sanctions have had no affect on us," he said.The Iranian official expressed distrust for America and the U.S.-led efforts to slow down Iran's nuclear ambitions. He said that his government isn't impressed with America's outreach toward Tehran and called Mr. Obama's stated policy of constructive engagement with Iran a farce.
"We are of the analysis that what [the Americans] say and what their policies are (show) they are suffering from a paradox," he said, citing as evidence a lack of practical change on U.S. policies on Middle East peace efforts, compared to those of former President George W. Bush.
Mr. Mottaki also struck a defiant tone about Iran's relations with its neighbors in the Middle East, many of whom have said in public and private discussions—several of which were leaked in cables released recently by WikiLeaks—that they fear the Shiite country's growing political influence in the region.
Speaking at a session of the conference attended by Arab foreign ministers and other high-ranking officials, Mr. Mottaki said that the Muslim world had nothing to fear from Iran's nuclear potential, and said that his government viewed the scientific achievement of nuclear power as a benefit for the entire Muslim world.
"The reality is that Iran has more or less the same potential of other countries to become very powerful, but we will not use that potential to hurt our neighbors…especially because our neighbors are Muslims. Our power is your power, and your power is ours," he told the gathering.In the past few years, the oil-producing nations of the Persian Gulf have spent billions of dollars upgrading their own military capabilities with an eye on what many rulers see as a critical threat from Tehran.
Bahrain's foreign minister, Sheikh Khalid al-Khalifa, speaking at a session with Mr. Mottaki and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davitoglu, repeated a proposal made by international diplomats and Arab nations to create an international nuclear fuel bank, through which Iran could power its budding nuclear industry under strict controls.
Mr. Mottaki said that Iran would welcome the creation of such a fuel bank, but would not give up what he said was Iran's sovereign right to enrich its own uranium.
"We are [in] agreement in creation of a fuel bank, and since we are a fuel producer and we have the technology for that, then presumably a branch of the bank will be built in Iran," Mr. Mottaki said.