TEHRAN, Iran, AP -Iran’s foreign minister said Saturday that a breakthrough was possible over Tehran’s nuclear program, but only if the United States drops its conditions for negotiations.
In a major policy shift, the United States agreed this week to join France, Britain and Germany in talks with Iran providing Tehran suspends all suspect nuclear activities. It would be the first major public negotiations between Washington and Tehran in more than 25 years.
On Thursday the four countries, along with China and Russia, agreed to offer Iran incentives to give up suspect nuclear activities, but threatened U.N. sanctions if Tehran refuses.
Iran responded Friday saying the West will not deprive it of nuclear technology. “The efforts of some Western countries to deprive us will not bear any fruit,” said the hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The United States in turn warned Tehran that it expects a prompt response to the offer, suggesting the incentives could be replaced by penalties if the Islamic republic delays.
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran was still waiting to receive the offer and would make its views known after studying the package.
“We think that the views we will present our partners could prepare the ground for a comprehensive understanding,” he told a news conference Saturday in a rare show of optimism.
But Mottaki repeated Iran’s position that it wouldn’t accept to join conditional talks.
“These negotiations have to be without any conditions,” he told reporters.
Mottaki said EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana would deliver the package to Iranian officials in the next few days. No specific date has been set for the trip, he said.
In Belgium, Solana’s spokeswoman Cristina Gallach confirmed he was ready to travel to Iran very soon. “The trip is not going to be a negotiating trip, the objective is to present the proposals of the international community,” she said.
Iran would study the package “within the necessary timeframe,” Mottaki said.