Iran’s nuclear program is not a threat to Israel and the country is prepared to settle all outstanding issues with the International Atomic Energy Agency within three weeks, its top nuclear negotiator said Sunday.
Ali Larijani, speaking at a forum that gathered the world’s top security officials, said Iran doesn’t have aggressive intentions toward any nation.
“That Iran is willing to threaten Israel is wrong,” Larijani said. “We pose no threat and if we are conducting nuclear research and development we are no threat to Israel. We have no intention of aggression against any country.”
Iran insists it will not give up uranium enrichment, saying it is pursuing the technology only to generate energy. The United States and some of its allies fear the Islamic republic is more interested in enrichment’s other application — creating the fissile core of nuclear warheads.
The IAEA, led by Mohamed ElBaradei, has said it has found no evidence that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. But the watchdog has suspended some aid to Iran and criticized the country for concealing certain nuclear activities and failing to answer questions about its program.
“I have written to Mr. ElBaradei to say we are ready to within three weeks to have the modality to solve all the outstanding issues with you,” Larijani said at the forum.
Larijani: 'This issue can be settled'
On Friday, the IAEA suspended nearly half the technical aid it provides to Iran, a symbolically significant punishment for nuclear defiance that only North Korea and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had faced in the past.
That decision was in line with U.N. Security Council sanctions imposed on Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. The suspension must still be approved by the 35 countries on the IAEA’s board of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“Today we announce to you that the political will of Iran is aimed at the negotiated settlement of the case and we don’t want to aggravate the situation in our region,” Larijani said. “We know that this issue can be settled won in a constructive dialogue and we welcome that.”
ElBaradei’s Friday report to board members called for the full or partial suspension of 18 projects that it deemed could be misused to create nuclear weapons. The agency had already suspended aid to Iran in five instances last month.
‘Symbolic significance’ to suspensions
While the IAEA programs do not involve significant amounts of money, a senior U.N. official familiar with Iran’s file said the suspensions carry “symbolic significance” because they are part of Security Council sanctions.
Iran gets IAEA technical aid for 15 projects and 40 more involving multiple other countries. In projects involving other nations, only Iran was affected by the suspensions.
The United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany all want Iran to stop its enrichment program. But their approaches have differed over the past year, often straining the joint effort.
Russia and China, which both share economic and strategic interests with Iran, have been reluctant to impose harsh sanctions. After months of disputes, the Security Council imposed sanctions in December that fell short of the harsher measures sought by the United States.
In March, the IAEA board will also hear a report from ElBaradei expected to confirm that Iran has expanded its enrichment efforts — a development that would empower the Security Council to impose stricter sanctions.
'Won’t suspend our activities'
Meanwhile, on Sunday President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad struck a defiant yet vague tone, telling Iranians during the 28th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution that their country would not give up uranium enrichment but was prepared to talk with the international community.
“The Iranian nation on Feb. 11, 2007, passed the arduous passes and stabilized its definite (nuclear) right,” Ahmadinejad said. He did not elaborate or explain what his comments meant.
Ahmadinejad, however, also said Iran was ready for “dialogue,” and his country’s program would remain within the limits of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that bans production of nuclear weapons.
“We are prepared for dialogue but won’t suspend our activities. ... The government will defend the rights of the Iranian nation within the framework of the law,” he said.