TEHRAN, Iran – Iran's top nuclear negotiator said Tuesday that Tehran wanted to resolve decades of differences with the United States and warned that a U.S. military strike wouldn't destroy all of Iran's nuclear facilities.
Iran's top leaders have tried in recent days to ease increasing tensions with Washington amid a war of words. President Bush last week accused Iran of being "the world's primary state sponsor of terror."
"We are not seeking tension with the United States," negotiator Hasan Rowhani (search) told the state-run television. "We are seeking to resolve our problems with America but it's the Americans who don't want problems be resolved."
"There is no problem in today's world that can't be resolved," said Rowhani, who is secretary of Iran's powerful Supreme National Security Council.
Washington believes Iran is secretly using its civilian nuclear program to build a nuclear bomb. Iran denies the allegation, saying its nuclear activities are geared solely toward generating electricity.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search) on Friday said that a military strike against Iran was "simply not on the agenda at this point," but Bush has not ruled out a military strike as an option.
But Rowhani said that a U.S. military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities would fail.
"Iran's nuclear technology is in the hands of its scientists and workshops throughout the country. All of them have the ability to produce centrifuges. Therefore, America will not be able to destroy our nuclear facilities and mines through a military strike," he said.
Israel has warned that it may consider a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear installations along the lines of its 1981 bombing of an unfinished Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak (search) near Baghdad but Iranian officials have said any possible attack would fail.
Iran's nuclear facilities are spread throughout the country and partly built under the ground making an aerial attack a possible failure.
The broadcast said Iran began a new round of nuclear talks with the Europeans in Geneva on Monday.
Iran this week called on the Europeans to speed up the talks, reflecting frustration over lack of progress over European insistence that Tehran turn its temporary suspension of nuclear activities into a permanent stop.
Iran suspended uranium enrichment and all related activities in November, hoping to build trust and avoid U.N. Security Council sanctions. The International Atomic Energy Agency (search) has agreed to police the suspension.
Under an agreement reached with the European Union, Iran will continue suspension of its enrichment activities during negotiations with the Europeans about economic, political and technological aid. Iran has said it will decide within three months whether to continue its suspension, which is monitored by U.N. nuclear inspectors.
Rowhani said Iran will never scrap its nuclear program and won't give up its rights under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (search) which allows Iran access to peaceful nuclear technology.
"Talks can't continue for a long time. The Europeans have been told that the period of negotiations has to be within months not years," he told the television.
"And the condition to continue the talks is progress. Therefore, if by the end of the [Iranian calendar] year (March 20], there is no progress in the talks, we will not be obliged to continue the talks," Rowhani said.
He also insisted that Iran now possesses the technology to control the whole nuclear fuel cycle — from extracting uranium ore to enriching it.
"We have the ability to extract uranium, process it into yellowcake and enrich it and produce fuel. We can claim that we control the nuclear fuel cycle," he said.