Middle East

Iran's Rouhani warns West against 'excessive' nuclear demands

Hassan Rouhani (file)
Image caption Hassan Rouhani stressed that Iran's nuclear programme was "peaceful"

President Hassan Rouhani has warned world powers trying to negotiate a deal over Iran's nuclear programme that they should not make "excessive demands".

He was quoted by an official website as telling Russian President Vladimir Putin that they could "complicate the process towards a win-win agreement".

The Kremlin said Mr Putin had stressed there was a "real chance" of a deal.

Representatives from Iran and the P5+1 group of nations will begin a new round of negotiations in Geneva on Wednesday.

Three days of high-level talks earlier this month failed to achieve a breakthrough.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Iran been unable to accept a deal "at that particular moment", while Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed divisions between Western powers and appeared to single out France for "gutting over half" of a US draft deal.

Some reports said France's delegation had wanted to place tight restrictions on the heavy-water reactor being built at Arak; others that the Iranian government's insistence on formal recognition of its "right" to enrich uranium had been the major obstacle.

Iran stresses that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only, but world powers suspect it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

'Essential' components

On Monday, Mr Rouhani was quoted by the dolat.ir website as telling his Russian counterpart: "At the recent Geneva talks good progress was made, but everyone must realise excessive demands could complicate the process towards a win-win agreement.

"From our point of view, there should not be a situation in which the will of parties to reach mutually acceptable agreement is affected."

Their telephone conversation came a day after French President Francois Hollande outlined the "essential" components of any deal.

These included Iran halting its enrichment of uranium to a medium level of purity, or 20%; reducing its existing stockpile of enriched uranium, and stopping the construction of the Arak reactor.

Experts say Iran's 20%-enriched uranium could be enriched to weapons-grade, or 90%, in a relatively short time, while spent fuel from the Arak reactor will contain plutonium suitable for use in nuclear weapons.

In a separate development on Monday, an exiled Iranian opposition group claimed Iran had almost completed a new underground nuclear facility.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said its sources had confirmed the existence of the site - codenamed "012" - at the Haft-e Tir military complex, outside the central city of Mobarakeh.

But it had no details of what kinds of activities were being carried out there.

The group revealed Iran's uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and the Arak facility in 2002, but more recent allegations about its nuclear programme were met with scepticism from the international community.