A high-level advisor to Iran's supreme leader said his country is ready to allow "permanent human monitoring" of its nuclear program in exchange for Western cooperation but also warned Iran is prepared to defend itself against military strikes.
Mohammad Javad Larijani, who serves as Secretary-General of Iran's Human Rights Council and key foreign policy advisor to Ayatollah Khamenei, said the West should sell Iran 20 percent enriched uranium and provide all the help that nuclear nations are supposed to provide to countries building civilian nuclear power plants. He also said the U.S. and the West should accept his country's right to continue what Iran calls its peaceful nuclear program. In return for cooperation from the West, he said, Iran would offer "full transparency."
Should negotiations fail and military strikes against nuclear sites in Iran begin, however, Larijani borrowed a phrase from President Obama's own policy when he said "every possibility is on the table" when it comes to Iran's response to such attacks. He did not discount the possibility of closing the strategic Strait of Hormuz or the firing of rockets into Israel.
Asked about an often-quoted statement by Iranian President Ahmadinejad about "wiping Israel from the face of the map", Larijani said it was "definitely not" Iran's intent to militarily obliterate Israel, adding that "neither the president meant that nor is it a policy of Iran."
Larijani also said that financial sanctions, which the White House has said are having a significant impact on the Iranian economy, were a "failure" if they were designed to halt Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"Does it stop Iran's capability for developing its nuclear facilities for peaceful means? Definitely not," he said. Even if the sanctions were hurting Iran, Larijani said, "The U.S. shouldn't enjoy hurting us."
While talk about a possible Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities reached a fever pitch in the past few months, the six countries that negotiate with Iran over the nuclear program -- the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Russia and China -- accepted last week an Iranian offer to return to negotiations after a year's standstill. Iran's nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, had sent a letter to the European Union's top diplomat in February expressing Iran's willingness for the first time to return to negotiations without pre-conditions.
Pending more information on the kinds of inspections intended, Iran has rebuffed a request from the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, for access to the Parchin military site suspected of involvement in the past in the development of triggers for nuclear weapons. Larijani said such a visit before the talks would "not contribute to confidence."
Larijani reiterated his government's longstanding claim that "Iran is not after nuclear weapons" and said the country has an "honest to God right" under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to pursue nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Despite the announcement of new talks, Obama said in a press conference Wednesday that the "window for solving this issue diplomatically was shrinking."
Maintaining the nuclear program is worth the financial and potential military risk, Larijani said, because Iranians "are not secondary citizens of the world" and that they "want to enjoy exactly the same rights the United States and the United States' people are enjoying."