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Iraqi minister defends Iranian nuclear program

'Every country has right' to nuclear technology, Zebari says
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, left, and his Iraqi counterpart, Hoshya Zebari, on Friday.


start quote"It's not whether Iran likes carrots. Iran likes respect. Iran demands respect.end quote
-- Iran's U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Javad Zarif


United States
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iran has a right to develop nuclear technology and the international community should drop its demands that Tehran prove it's not trying to build a nuclear weapon, Iraq's foreign minister said Friday.

"Iran doesn't claim that they want to obtain a nuclear weapon or a nuclear bomb, so there is no need that we ask them for any guarantee now," Hoshyar Zebari said after meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki.

Iran's nuclear ambitions are "an international issue," Zebari said. "In our beliefs, it is a matter of principle. Every country has the right to have its nuclear technology, every country like the Islamic Republic or any other country, since it is for peaceful purposes."

Zebari did say that Iran's nuclear program must be monitored by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

He also called for a diplomatic solution to the standoff between Iran and the West.

"We have agreement that we need to deal with this issue politically, peacefully and diplomatically," Zebari said. "We know that the wise Iranian administration will be able to resolve this issue."

Iran in February ended its voluntary cooperation with the IAEA, which included ending surprise inspections of nuclear facilities.

Iran claims it is enriching uranium to create nuclear power. But the United States and other Western countries have accused the Islamic republic of pursuing nuclear weapons. The U.N. Security Council has demanded that Iran cease enrichment activities, but Iran has refused.

World powers -- including permanent Security Council members Russia, China, France, Britain and the United States -- met this week to discuss the possibility of an incentives package to entice Iran into abandoning its nuclear-enrichment program, according to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton. He did not elaborate in his comments Thursday to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Whether incentives will sway Iran is uncertain. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad already has likened one incentives package to trading candy for gold.

Iran's U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Javad Zarif said Thursday that Iran wanted to negotiate directly with the United States on the matter and said that Iran would not be force-fed a solution. Incentives, or the carrot-and-stick approach, will not be effective, he said.

"It's not whether Iran likes carrots," he said. "Iran likes respect. Iran demands respect. If there is to be a solution in Iran, Iran has to be part of the solution. We don't expect others to cook for us something and then present it to us and then tell us, 'Eat it or else.' This is not the way Iranians do international business."

Also Friday, Iran expressed support for Iraq's national unity government, asked for the release of 72 Iranian inmates held in Iraqi prisons and declared its willingness to take part in the reconstruction of Iraq, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.

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