Iran's nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili
Iran's nuclear negotiator Saeed JaliliAFP photo

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, one of the candidates in the upcoming presidential elections, pledged on Thursday to “resist” western demands regarding his country’s nuclear program if he is elected.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Saeed Jalili, the most prominent among a group of candidates in the June poll who are close to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said he would apply a policy of “progress, justice and resistance” as president, insisting that international sanctions imposed over Iran’s nuclear program could be circumvented.

“My understanding is that the more we rely on our religious and internal principles, the more we can create the capacity to pursue the path of progress and the more we can resist [pressure from outside opponents of the regime],” Jalili told the Financial Times.

“What matters today is to defend the rights of the Iranian nation in various areas that should not be violated by others. The more we defend these rights, the more progress we can make,” he added.

Regarding his country’s negotiations with world powers regarding the nuclear program, Jalili criticized the West for not recognizing Iran’s right to enrich uranium.

“We do not want anything beyond [Iran’s rights under] the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty),” he told the Financial Times. “We naturally expect to enjoy our rights under the NPT. The main question is why they do not recognize Iran’s right to uranium enrichment under the NPT. Those who claim they respect the NPT, should respect this right of the Iranian nation.”

Asked if Iran would agree to demands to ship out its stocks of uranium enriched to 20 percent, Jalili responded, “We have gone into extensive details about this in the talks [with major powers]. We have said that what has been produced is for our domestic and pharmaceutical needs. They see that the fuel is [produced] under the supervision of IAEA inspectors in Fordow and Natanz and they see this is used for peaceful purposes. We have said this is for our needs. We have not produced it to be sent abroad but to meet the medical needs of people.”

Asked if Iran was being careful not to cross Israel’s “red line”, as laid out by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during his United Nations speech, he replied, “We do not give any credibility to Israel or its threats. Our red line is the NPT regulations.”