The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

AP story section

September 30, 2013

Foreign minister: Iran open to negotiations

WASHINGTON — Iran would open its nuclear facilities to international inspectors as part of broad negotiations with the United States that could eventually restore diplomatic relations between the adversaries and those talks have the backing of the nation’s supreme leader, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Sunday.

Zarif also said the United States and its allies must end their crippling economic sanctions as part of any deal. The Western-educated Zarif again repeated Tehran’s position that it has no desire for nuclear weapons but has the right to continue a peaceful nuclear program.

“Negotiations are on the table to discuss various aspects of Iran’s enrichment program. Our right to enrich is nonnegotiable,” Zarif said during an English-language interview that comes amid a significant shift in U.S.-Iranian relations.

At the same time, Zarif’s deputy tried to calm hard-liners’ fears at home. “We never trust America 100 percent,” Abbas Araghchi was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars News Agency, which has close ties to Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard.

And Obama’s national security adviser expressed similar skepticism given decades of an anti-American record.

Iran’s nuclear ambitions have isolated its people from the rest of the world and led to harmful economic penalties. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has declared the use of nuclear weapons against Islamic law yet has maintained his nation has the right to develop its uranium program.

But Khamenei, who is the nation’s ultimate decision-maker, also has given his approval for elected leaders in his country to engage the West over the nuclear program, Zarif said.

That engagement resulted in a phone conversation Friday between President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the first direct contact between the two countries’ leaders in three decades.

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