Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday he did not expect talks next month with six world powers in Moscow on Iran’s nuclear program to yield any major breakthroughs.
The six powers – the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – failed to persuade Tehran on May 23 to halt its most sensitive nuclear work, but they will meet again in Moscow on June 18-19 to try to end a standoff that has raised fears of a new war that could threaten global oil supplies.
“We are not fools. We are not expecting miracles at the next meeting,” Ahmadinejad said in an interview with France 24 television. “There will be areas of work that will go in the right direction and we will work toward them so that we reach a constructive accord.”
Ahmadinejad reiterated Iran’s “legal right” to enrich uranium to 20 percent and said other countries would have to explain why Iran was not allowed to do this and what they would offer Iran in exchange if it stopped enriching uranium.
Asked whether Tehran would accept an offer under which other countries would enrich its uranium if it suspended its nuclear program, Ahmadinejad said he was open to it.
“That offer has not been made, but it would ease the situation and would help build trust,” he said.
Iran’s nuclear progress is closely watched by the West and Israel as it could determine how long it could take Tehran to build atomic bombs, if it decided to do so. Iran denies any plan to do this and says its aims are entirely peaceful.
Meanwhile, U.N. nuclear inspectors displayed new satellite imagery Wednesday indicating that some small buildings had been dismantled and other possible clean-up work undertaken at an Iranian military site they want to visit.
One image from May 25 showed signs that “ground-scraping activities” had taken place at the Parchin facility, as well as the presence of a bulldozer, according to diplomats who attended a closed-door briefing by U.N. nuclear agency officials.
This will likely further strengthen Western suspicions that Iran is “sanitizing” the site of any incriminating evidence before allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency into the complex. “It is very clear,” one Western envoy said.
Iran’s IAEA envoy, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, dismissed such accusations by Western officials, telling reporters after the briefing that “this kind of noise and allegations are baseless.”
Last week, the IAEA said in a report issued to member states that satellite images showed “extensive activities” at the facility southeast of Tehran.
Western diplomats said this was an allusion to suspected cleaning at Parchin facility. They have earlier cited other images showing recent activity at the site, including a stream of water, as suggesting Iran is trying to remove evidence.
At Wednesday’s briefing for diplomats accredited to the Vienna-based agency, Herman Nackaerts, the IAEA’s deputy director general, presented several satellite images, including from November and earlier this month, participants said.
The image from late May indicated that two or possibly three small side buildings – in the same area as the main structure that is of interest to the U.N. agency – had been removed, diplomats said.
Nackaerts did not elaborate on what he believed was happening at the facility, apart from reiterating that the agency needed to go there to clarify the issue, diplomats said.
Last week, Iranian media said the IAEA had not yet given good enough reasons to visit Parchin, which Iran says is solely a conventional military site.
Also Wednesday, a senior Iranian military official said Iran’s oil industry had been briefly affected by a powerful computer virus that had unprecedented data-snatching capabilities and can eavesdrop on computer users.
Gholam Reza Jalali, who heads an Iranian military unit in charge of fighting sabotage, added Wednesday that Iranian experts had found and defeated the “Flame” virus.
Jalali told state radio Wednesday that the oil industry had been the only governmental body affected and all problems had been resolved.