Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has said that the country’s right to enrich uranium for the purpose of nuclear power is a “red line” that cannot be crossed in negotiations.
His comments follow the break down of nuclear talks in Geneva between Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his international counterparts, including William Hague and John Kerry.
Speaking in the conservative Iranian parliament, Rouhani said the country would not yield to any threats or discrimination, in an apparent bid to keep hardliners on side as Tehran edges toward a possible deal.
“The Islamic Republic has not and will not bow its head to threats from any authority,” Rouhani said. “For us there are red lines that cannot be crossed. National interests are our red lines that include our rights under the framework of international regulations and (uranium) enrichment in Iran.”
Despite the lack of agreement during the initial round of talks on Saturday, discussion were described as “very productive” by Mr Zarif. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said “a lot of concrete progress has been made but differences remain”. Talks will resume in the Swiss city on 20 November.
The negotiations seemed on the verge of breakthrough until France, holding out for tougher conditions, declined to endorse a proposed deal, sources said.
Since coming to power in the summer of this year, Rouhani, a relative moderate, has opened up the possibility of an agreement over Tehran’s nuclear programme in return for some of the crippling sanctions imposed on the country being lifted.
Western governments however remain concerned that Iran is enriching uranium to power nuclear warheads, rather than for use in future nuclear power stations, as Tehran consistently maintains.
On Sunday Mr Hague told the BBC that there is a “good chance” of a deal being reached in the next few weeks, but cautioned that negotiations are “formidably difficult”. “I can't say exactly when it will conclude,“ he said.