by Staff Writers
Kuwait City (AFP) Dec 1, 2010
Iran is ready to negotiate its nuclear programme with Western powers, but will refuse to make any concessions, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Wednesday.
"We support talks, negotiations and dialogue," Mottaki told a news conference in Kuwait City when asked about the resumption of talks on Tehran's sensitive nuclear programme.
"But this does not mean that we will make concessions or retreat from our principled position," he said ahead of the resumption of the talks after a one-year hiatus, and following a fresh set of UN sanctions against Iran.
The Geneva talks are aimed at allaying long-standing Western concerns that Iran's nuclear programme masks a weapons drive under the guise of a civilian programme, something Tehran denies.
"Developments in the international arena require negotiations and the Islamic republic is prepared to participate in those talks," said Mottaki.
"We hope to see a serious will for constructive talks... Undoubtedly, one of the issues to be discussed is the agenda" of talks, he added.
The United States, Europe and Israel fear that Iran wants to use nuclear technology to build a bomb but Tehran insists that its programme is a peaceful drive to produce civilian energy.
Iran is under four sets of UN sanctions over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, the sensitive process which can be used to make nuclear fuel or, in highly extended form, the fissile core of an atom bomb.
Mottaki said, however, the sanctions have in fact benefitted Iran.
He said that five years ago before the sanctions, Iran was importing 70 percent of spare parts for its key oil and gas sectors. Now, it is importing only 30 percent and manufacturing the rest.
Non-oil exports were worth just eight billion dollars before the sanctions, and today they are worth 30 billion dollars a year.
Mottaki added that foreign investment in Iran reached unprecedented levels last year, without providing any figures.
Sanctions notably ban investments in oil, gas and petrochemicals while also targeting banks, insurance, financial transactions and shipping -- all of which Tehran has brushed off as having no impact.
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