TEHRAN, (Reuters) – Nuclear negotiations with the European Union expected to take place later this month must focus entirely on Iran”s right to enrich uranium, Iran”s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday.
The United States and the EU want Iran to abandon plans to enrich uranium, a process that can be used to make nuclear warheads, on its own soil and instead join an enrichment joint venture in Russia.
But Iranian officials have repeatedly said they will push ahead with efforts to produce their own nuclear fuel, via enrichment, for a number of planned civilian power reactors.
Tehran says it has no interest in making atomic bombs.
"The negotiations will focus on Iran”s right to enrich uranium," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a weekly news conference.
He said EU and Iranian negotiators were expected to meet in Vienna on Dec. 21. Face-to-face talks between the two sides have been frozen since August when Iran resumed processing uranium, a prior stage in the nuclear fuel cycle to enrichment.
"We expect the meeting to pay attention to the realities and Iran”s rights because we believe this issue (enrichment) should be investigated without any discrimination," Asefi said.
"The next meeting will be important and everything depends on these negotiations," he added.
European diplomats have expressed pessimism that the talks will make headway given Iran”s rejection of any proposal that would prevent it from enriching uranium on its soil.
Iran has also recently announced plans to build several nuclear power reactors, construction of two of which will be put out to international tender in coming months.
Asked whether U.S. companies would be allowed to participate in the tender, Asefi said: "If they have the necessary standards and qualifications they can participate."
Iran has repeatedly challenged critics of its nuclear programme, including the United States, to help it build its nuclear facilities so that they can monitor more closely Tehran”s assertion that it will not divert atomic materials into bomb-making.