Iran’s Foreign Minister said Thursday that his country is willing to address international concerns about its atomic activities but will keep its nuclear program "intact" and not close it down, Reuters reports.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s remarks signaled that Tehran will not agree to dismantle any of its atomic facilities in talks with six world powers on a final settlement of the decade-old dispute over its nuclear activity.
Zarif, speaking to reporters during a visit to New Delhi, said he hoped a deal would be reached by the July deadline, although talks could be extended by another half year if both sides agreed.
"I am hoping by the first deadline we will reach a final deal and to start implementing it," he said, according to Reuters. "And I can assure you that Iran has that political will and good faith that is required in order to achieve that."
However, Zarif also said there was a "problem in terms of both substance and approach", apparently referring to the other side in the talks.
He noted that Iran was "prepared to make sure that the program is exclusively peaceful and create the necessary understanding for the West. I believe there are multiple ways of doing that and we are willing to entertain those ways."
But, warned, "I can tell you that Iran's nuclear program will remain intact. We will not close any program."
After years of talks, Iran and the six world powers reached a six-month interim nuclear deal in November. That deal went into effect on January 20.
Under the agreement, Iran committed to limit its uranium enrichment to five percent, halting production of 20 percent-enriched uranium. In return, the European Union and the United States have eased crippling economic sanctions on Iran.
The parties hope to create a lasting accord out of the interim deal. Last week’s meeting in Vienna was described as "constructive and useful."
Even after the interim deal was reached, Iran has consistently said that it will not stop its nuclear program, which it claims is for peaceful purposes.
Several weeks ago, Zarif denied that his country had agreed to dismantle its centrifuges as part of the nuclear agreement.
He insisted that the Obama administration was mischaracterizing the concessions by Iran in the six-month nuclear deal, saying that "we did not agree to dismantle anything."
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently declared that his country will not dismantle its nuclear facilities.
Rouhani said nuclear weapons had no place in Iran’s defense strategy but also made clear that Tehran was determined to maintain a uranium enrichment program for peaceful purposes.