Turkish FM Urges Iran to Offer Nuclear Assurances

ISTANBUL -- Turkey on Thursday urged Iran to offer assurances that it won't seek nuclear weapons and said all countries should have the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Turkey, NATO's sole Muslim member, has friendly ties with Iran and is preparing to host new rounds of talks in Istanbul on Friday between Iran and world powers on Tehran's nuclear activities.

"We are against nuclear weapons, but we believe that all countries have the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said at a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Davutoglu urged Iran to "provide assurances about its nuclear program that there will be no intention to produce weapons."

He expressed hope that such a "good mechanism" could be achieved during the talks this week.
Lavrov, whose country is among the world powers negotiating with Iran, said there was a need for Iran to agree to intrusive inspection of its nuclear sites.

"It's not an obligation, but it will certainly be required given the history of the Iranian nuclear issue," Lavrov said.

Iran says it wouldn't negotiate over its rights enshrined in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. As an NPT member state, Iran said it has every right to enrich uranium to produce nuclear fuel.
"If it is peaceful, Iran will have the right, like any other NPT member, to go for nuclear fuel," Lavrov said.

The U.S. and some of its allies accuse Iran of using its civil nuclear program as a cover to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Tehran denies the accusation, saying its nuclear work is merely geared toward producing nuclear energy and isotopes to treat medical patients.

Brazil and Turkey have recently emerged as important allies for Tehran in backing attempts to restart negotiations on a deal that would see Iran ship out some of its low-enriched uranium in exchange for fuel rods for a small reactor making medical isotopes.

Those talks stalled more than a year ago and the West considers them increasingly irrelevant as a way to slow Tehran's ability to make nuclear weapons by removing some material that could be enriched into weapons grade uranium.

But Lavrov extended support to the idea of Iran shipping out low-enriched uranium in return for fuel.

"It's an important project. It's needed for medical use. It's legitimate ... we need to improve confidence," he said.

Last week, Iran took several international envoys -- but crucially none from the world powers -- to a tour of its nuclear facilities, as a gesture of transparency.

In a blow to the effort, however, major powers Russia, China and the European Union refused the Iranian invitation. The European Union said it should be up to inspectors from the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency to verify whether Iran's program is entirely peaceful.