A senior Iranian official on Friday said Tehran is prepared to allow "permanent human monitoring" of its nuclear program in exchange for "Western cooperation."
The remarks by Mohammad Javad Larijani, a key advisor to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, are seen as a signal from Tehran ahead of expected nuclear talks.
Larijani said the West should accept Iran's "peaceful nuclear program," sell Iran 20 percent enriched uranium, and provide the customary assitance nuclear nations provide to those building nuclear power plants.
In return for cooperation from the West Iran would offer "full transparency," Larijani said.
He did not say Iran would halt uranium enrichment
– a key demand by Jerusalem and Washington to avoid military strikes – but observers say the stiputation that the West provide 20% enriched uranium indicates Iran is open to doing so.
Larijani stressed “every possibility is on the table” when it comes to Iran''s response to military attacks against its nuclear sites, indicating Tehran could still fire missiles at Israel or attempt to close the strategically vital Strait of Hormuz if attacked.
However, he also sought to distance Iran from an often-quoted statement by increasingly out-of-favor
Iranian President Ahmadinejad about “wiping Israel from the face of the map.”
Larijani emphatically said it was “definitely not” Iran's intent to militarily obliterate Israel, adding that “neither the president meant that, nor is it a policy of Iran.”
His remarks – a stark shift from bellicose threats to rapprochement – were made as Tehran prepares to enter nuclear talks
with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany aimed at ending an impasse over Tehran’s nuclear program.
They also come after the US asked Russia to make it clear to the Iranians that the upcoming talks, expected to take place in April, are a "last chance
" for a diplomatic solution.
Israeli officials – whose 14 key decision makers have yet to convene to formally discuss the military option – have indicated a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities could occur within months
. That timetable gives the projected April talks time to run their course.
Israel, the United States, its Western allies, and Gulf Arab nations believe Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.
The International Atomic Energy Association has issued two reports in recent months indicating Iran has sought – and continues to seek – nuclear technology that has solely military applications.
It has also raised pointed questions about Iran's push to enrich its uranium stockpiles to 20% purity, a key jumping off point should Iran make a dash to enrich its uranium to the 93% needed for nuclear weapons.
Iran says it is enriching uranium to 20% in order to research medical isotopes, but proliferation experts say Tehran is enriching far more uranium than is necessary for that purpose and does not have a sufficiently advanced medical research sector to support the claim.
The United Nations and European Union have levied numerous rounds of sanctions on Tehran's economy, destabilizing the Iranian rial.
They have also made the purchase of Iran's exportable crude oil – a key pillar of the nation's economy – increasingly difficult by cutting off banking channels and insurance options.