TOPICS > Politics

Iran Defends ‘Rights’ to Nuclear Program

BY Talea Miller  September 29, 2009 at 11:48 AM EDT

Iranian President Ahmadinejad

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, told reporters in Tehran, “We are not going to discuss anything related to our nuclear rights, but we can discuss about disarmament, we can discuss about non-proliferation and other general issues,” according to the New York Times.

The Islamic nation said it will soon have a proposed timetable for international inspectors to visit the nuclear enrichment facility, which the United States, France and Britain spoke out against last week.

Salehi described the new facility as a “contingency plant” in case the Natanz site was threatened by military action, the Associated Press reported.

The unexpected disclosure of the nuclear site, as well as three rounds of missile tests carried out by Iran Sunday and Monday, have heightened anticipation of the direct talks to be held Thursday in Geneva.

Diplomats from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany will meet Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, for the first direct talks since 2008, but an Iranian MP suggested Tuesday that the parliament might advocate withdrawal from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty if the talks fail, reported Reuters.

The MP made reference to economic sanctions and if “the Zionists and America continue their pressure on Iran.”

The White House has been considering new sanctions, including targeting more Iranian banks and the oil industry, if Iran does not comply with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Several of the parties involved in Thursday’s talks have expressed doubts that Iran will be able to show that the nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

“My expectation, or my hope, is that we will be able to get … the guarantees from Tehran, that the program in which they are engaged in is a peaceful program,” EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told reporters in Gothenburg, Sweden.

“I don’t think it will be easy to ask for, but we will continue to engage.”

A spokesperson from China’s foreign ministry urged calm over the talks Tuesday.

“We hope relevant countries can make efforts for the relaxation of the situation instead of doing things on the contrary,” Jiang Yu told a news conference, reported the Associated Press.

“We support the maintenance of the international nonproliferation regime and uphold the proper handling of the issue through negotiations.”

Details about the newly revealed nuclear site continue to come out. Iran kept its construction secret for years and the site is built inside a mountain and next to a military site.

Iran’s Salehi said this was done in defense of the country’s nuclear activities.

“It was intended to safeguard our nuclear facilities and reduce the cost of active defense system. If we had chosen another site, we would have had to set up another aerial defense system,” Salehi told a news conference, reported the Associated Press.

The secretive nature of the site has raised suspicion that the program is aimed at producing weapons, a charge Iran has repeatedly denied.

Iran’s Press TV reported Salehi informed the United Nations that the plant will produce uranium enrichedup to 5 percent, while it takes at least 90 percent enrichment to make a nuclear weapon, reported the Los Angeles Times.