TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran is ready to resume stalled nuclear talks with major powers if conditions Tehran will announce soon are met, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said a week after the country was hit by new U.N. sanctions.
Ahmadinejad made clear on Wednesday that Iran’s “nuclear path” would not be negotiable in any discussions, highlighting Tehran’s defiance despite growing international pressure over atomic activities the West suspects are aimed at making bombs.
In a sign of the Islamic state’s anger at the June 9 vote by the U.N. Security Council to impose a fourth round of punitive measures against the oil producer, he warned the country could “react firmly” when its rights were violated.
Iran’s determination to press ahead with nuclear work it says is mainly aimed at generating power was underlined by an official announcing plans to build more research reactors.
The government said in February it had launched higher-grade uranium enrichment to provide fuel for its existing medical research reactor in Tehran, sparking alarm in the West because it brought it closer to the level needed for a bomb.
In tandem with moves to tighten restrictions on Iran, the United States and European Union have also increased efforts to engage with Tehran and try to get it back to negotiations.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton — with the backing of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — is hoping to meet Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in the weeks ahead to see if any progress can be made.
Ahmadinejad said Iran was in favour of talks but “you have made your move and it is now our turn to make a move to force you to behave” in any future dialogue.
“If they think they can use sticks to pressure Iran, we say that the Iranian nation will break all of their sticks,” he said in a televised speech in the western city of Shahr-e Kord.
Iran, the world’s fifth-largest oil producer, says its nuclear programme is a peaceful bid to produce electricity.
But its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a process which can have both civilian and military uses, has drawn four rounds of U.N. sanctions as well as separate U.S. measures.
Ahmadinejad said Iran would not “withdraw from our nuclear path even one iota” because of sanctions.
“We are ready to resume talks with them ... but we have conditions that will be announced soon,” he said.
Last year, hopes of a breakthrough in the dispute were dashed after Western diplomats said Iran back-tracked on a nuclear fuel swap plan tentatively agreed in Geneva in October.
It had been seen as a way to ease tensions as Iran would remove an amount of low-enriched uranium that could have been used for an atomic bomb, if enriched to high levels, and receive 20 percent fuel in return for the Tehran research reactor.
Turkey and Brazil last month resurrected parts of the proposal, in the hope this would remove the need for sanctions.
But the United States, France and Russia voiced doubts about the revised offer, saying Iran must stop the enrichment of 20 percent purity it started four months ago, up from some 5 percent previously. A level of 90 percent is needed for a bomb.
Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, said on Wednesday the Islamic Republic would construct four new research reactors, state television reported.
Western analysts have voiced doubt about Iran’s ability to produce the fuel needed for such reactors, but Salehi said it would be ready before September.
“Iran plans to build more research reactors to become an exporter of cancer medicine to Islamic and regional countries,” he said.
Writing by Parisa Hafezi and Fredrik Dahl; editing by Noah Barkin