As major world powers voice readiness to hold talks with Iran about concerns over the country’s nuclear work, France moves to raise new allegations against the Islamic Republic.
“It is a certainty to all of our secret services. Iran is working today on a nuclear [weapons] program,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy told lawmakers from his conservative UMP party on Tuesday.
“We cannot let Iran acquire nuclear” weapons because it would also be a threat to Israel, he added.
Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — Russia, China, Britain, France and the US — plus Germany (P5+1) have agreed to hold wide-ranging talks addressing global issues along with Tehran’s nuclear program on October 1 most probably in Turkey.
The meeting arrangements come after Iran presented its new package of proposals to the six major powers.
Ahead of diplomatic negotiations between Iran and the West, the White House said on Tuesday that US President Barack Obama and Sarkozy held talks on ways to bring Iran ‘into compliance’ with UN resolutions on its nuclear program.
“The two leaders discussed the status of diplomatic efforts to bring Iran into compliance with its international obligations on its nuclear program,” a statement said after a telephone conversation between Obama and Sarkozy.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the upcoming meeting between Iran and the six powers represents a ‘fulfillment’ of Obama’s pledge to engage with the Islamic Republic despite three decades of hostility between Washington and Tehran.
“We have made clear to the Iranians that any talks we participate in must address the nuclear issue head on. It cannot be ignored,” even though Tehran has so far ignored such appeals, she added.
Western countries, spearheaded by the US and Israel, accuse the Islamic Republic of pursuing a clandestine military nuclear program under the guise of its civilian nuclear power program and have been pressuring Tehran to halt its uranium enrichment activities.
Iran, however, has denied the allegations and called for the removal of weapons of mass destruction worldwide.
While the UN Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions against Iran for its alleged enrichment work, Washington has threatened to consider tougher sanctions if talks fail.
Iran has repeatedly announced it would hold no talks on its ‘inalienable [nuclear] rights’ granted to all Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatories.
“We are ready to hold talks on international cooperation and ways to resolve ongoing economic and security problems in the world as we believe that such issues cannot be settled without collective participation,” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday.