Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (Photo: Reuters)
Iran will decide the level of uranium enrichment in its nuclear programme based on its energy and other civilian needs, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in remarks reported Saturday.
His remarks appeared to conflict with the landmark nuclear deal struck with world powers in Geneva last weekend, which states that the enrichment level must be mutually defined and agreed upon by both sides in further negotiations.
"Iran will decide the level of enrichment according to its needs for different purposes," Zarif said late Friday night, according to the official IRNA news agency.
"Only details of the enrichment activities are negotiable," he said, referring to a final accord with the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany -- known as the P5+1 group -- that the parties hope to negotiate within a year.
The interim agreement reached in Geneva set out trust-building measures by both sides to be implemented in a six-month period, during which negotiations over the final accord must begin.
Iran agreed to freeze expansion of its nuclear activities -- which Western powers and Israel suspect mask military objectives despite repeated Iranian denials -- and to cap enrichment of above low-level purity, including 20 percent.
Israel and Western powers hope the final accord will drastically scale back Iran's enrichment programme, which is currently producing the low-enriched uranium required for electricity and medical isotopes but could be ramped up to produce the highly enriched uranium which is a key element of a nuclear weapon.
Iran has repeatedly said it will not seek nuclear weapons while insisting it has the "right" to enrich uranium under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
"We have always said we will not allow anyone to determine our needs," Zarif was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency. "But we are prepared to negotiate about it."
According to the interim deal, the final accord must "involve a mutually defined enrichment programme with mutually agreed parameters consistent with practical needs."
But it also calls for limits "on scope and level of enrichment activities, capacity, where it is carried out, and stocks of enriched uranium, for a period to be agreed upon."