Iran’s Khamenei urges flexibility in nuclear talks

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 September, 2013, 2:28pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 September, 2013, 2:35pm

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday that flexibility was sometimes necessary in diplomacy as his negotiators prepared for new talks on his government’s controversial nuclear drive.

Khamenei’s comments, reported by state television, came after Iran’s moderate new President Hassan Rowhani, who took office last month, said he would show flexibility in renewed talks with the major powers.

“Heroic flexibility is very useful and necessary sometimes but with adherence to one main condition,” he told members of the elite Revolutionary Guards.

“A wrestler sometimes shows flexibility for technical reasons. But he does not forget about his opponent nor about his main objective,” Khamenei said.

On September 11, Rowhani said he had the tacit support of Khamenei for “flexibility” in talks with six major powers that are expected to resume in the coming weeks.

Rowhani has said he wants to allay Western concerns but that he will not renounce Iran’s goal of an independent civil nuclear programme.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was to fly to New York later on Tuesday to attend the United Nations General Assembly.

On the sidelines, he is scheduled to meet the European Union’s top diplomat, Catherine Ashton, who represents the powers in the decade-long talks.

Rowhani has vowed to take a more constructive approach to the talks than his hardline predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a bid to win a relaxation of crippling Western sanctions imposed on Iran’s oil and banking sectors.

His approach has drawn a cautious welcome from Western governments that have long suspected that Iran’s nuclear programme is cover for a drive for a weapons capability, an ambition Tehran has always denied.

Khamenei on Tuesday renewed his condemnation of nuclear weapons as un-Islamic.

“We do not accept nuclear weapons because of our beliefs, not because of the United States or others,” Khamenei said.

“When we say no one should possess nuclear weapons, we ourselves are definitely not seeking to acquire them.”