On eve on nuclear talks,
As Netanyahu takes off for last ditch effort to block nuclear deal with Iran, Khamenei claims Iran will never give up nuclear rights, blames France for ‘kneeling before Israel’, levels indirect threat to ‘slap aggressors in face’
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took off on Thursday for Russia in a last-minute bid to sway an emerging deal with Iran over its contested nuclear program.
Meanwhile, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tehran wanted friendly ties with all countries, including the United States but said that Israel is “doomed to extinction.”
Netanyahu is to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on Wednesday evening to voice his concerns about the deal being hammered out at talks in Geneva.On Thursday, he will address members of the Russian Jewish community.
Before an audience of militiamen, Khamenei said he would not allow any “retreat” on its rights: “I insist on stabilizing the rights of the Iranian nation, including the nuclear rights,” Khamenei told the militiamen of the Basij force in Tehran, in remarks broadcast live on state television.
“I insist on not retreating one step from the rights of the Iranian nation,” he said, adding that “We (Iran) want to have friendly relations with all nations, even the United States. We are not hostile to the American nation. They are like other nations in the world,” he said.
Khamenei took special effort to slam France, which took a hardliner position regarding the deal with Iran, saying French officials were “not only succumbing to the United States, but they are kneeling before the Israeli regime” and said Iran would “slap aggressors in the face in such a way they will never forget it” without mentioning any specific country.
In response, the militiamen chanted “Death to America.”
Iranian President Hassan Rohani made similar claims in phone call to Britan’s Prime Minister David Camron: “As Iran is determined that its nuclear activities will remain peaceful, it will strongly defend its nuclear rights,” the official IRNA news agency reported Rohani as telling Cameron.
“We will accept no discrimination on this issue. The language of respect must replace that of threats and sanctions,” he added.
Israel is staunchly opposed to the mooted interim agreement, insisting it will give Iran vital sanctions relief while failing to halt Tehran’s alleged march towards a “breakout” nuclear weapons capability.
The P5+1 – of which Russia is a member alongside the United States, China, France, Britain and Germany – will reconvene with Iran on Wednesday in Geneva for talks on the program.
“We hope the efforts that are being made will be crowned with success at the meeting that opens today in Geneva,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a joint news conference after talks with Brazilian Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo.
Lavrov said in remarks broadcast on Saturday that chances of reaching an agreement were very good and the opportunity should not be passed up.
He has also suggested Iran is prepared to produce less enriched uranium and halt production of uranium enriched to a fissile concentration of 20 percent, a relatively short step from weapons-grade material. Those are two of the steps Western powers want Iran to take.
Russia, which built Iran’s first nuclear power plant and has much warmer ties with Tehran than the United States does, has expressed less suspicion than Western powers that Iran may be seeking to develop nuclear weapons capability. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
The last round of talks with Iran that ended on November 10 came tantalizingly close to a framework agreement that supporters say would bolster Iran’s new president, a reputed moderate, and buy time for negotiating a comprehensive deal.
Moscow has expressed hope the differences could be ironed out, with Putin telling his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rohani on Monday that “a real chance has now emerged for finding a solution to this longstanding problem.”
Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Zeev Elkin, said his country did not expect a radical change in Moscow’s stance.
“Russia is not about to espouse the Israeli position,” he told public radio ahead of taking off to Russia with Netanyahu. “But any small budge could influence the whole process.”
Iranian news agency IRNA said Rohani also held talks on the telephone with Chinese President Xi Jinping, telling him Tehran was seeking “an accord which preserves its rights and shows that the Iranian nuclear program is totally peaceful.”
He called for China to oppose “excessive demands of certain countries,” referring to France which took a tough stand at the last round of talks in Geneva at the start of November.
Parliament speaker Ali Larijani, meanwhile, insisted in a speech to MPs that the Islamic republic would fully defend “its nuclear rights” in Geneva.