Iran calls for 'rights' to be fully recognised
TEHRAN - Iran will allay international concerns over its disputed nuclear drive provided its "rights" are fully recognised ahead of a major meeting with world powers next week, its foreign ministry said on Monday.
"For the negotiations to swiftly bear fruit, they should recognise our rights and we will remove the concerns based on a formula agreed by both sides," the Mehr news agency quoted foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast as saying.
"We are ready for rational talks in which our rights are fully recognised, and steps taken by the two parties are balanced and reciprocal," Mehmanparast said.
He also added that Iran is "committed" to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regulations, while refering to an edict by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has declared possession of atomic weapons a "sin" banned by religion.
On Saturday, Khamenei said Iran's stance on weapons of mass destruction was not taken "because the US is unhappy, but because it is based on a religious belief that nuclear weapons are a crime against humanity."
Mehmanparst also said Tehran will enter the negotiations from a "position of strength" and not from a "weak position" as expected by the world powers.
The talks between Iran and the P5+1 group -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany -- will be held in the Kazakh city of Almaty on February 26, after an eight-month hiatus and failed meetings in Istanbul, Baghdad and Moscow.
The talks aim to address a key Western concern about Iran's capacity to enrich uranium to fissile purities of 20 percent, a process that can be used for peaceful atomic purposes as well as for making the core of a nuclear bomb.
Iran is under various international sanctions over its disputed nuclear programme, which the West and Israel fear is aimed at developing nuclear weapons.
Tehran insists its atomic work is a purely civilian programme with peaceful ends.