EghtesadOnline: Iran has rejected an interpretation of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's recent comments as indicating the country's willingness to talk over its missile program with the United States, reiterating that its defense capability is not negotiable.
"Iran's missiles … are absolutely and under no condition negotiable with anyone or any country, period," Alireza Miryousefi, the head of the media office of the Iranian Mission to the United Nations, wrote on Twitter.
In an interview with NBC News on Monday, Zarif said, "If they [Americans] want to talk about our missiles, they need first to stop selling all these weapons, including missiles, to our region."
AP reported the comment, interpreting that he "seemed to suggest … that the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile program could be up for negotiations with the US, a possible opening for talks as tensions remain high between Tehran and Washington".
"We categorically reject the AP's characterization of @jazarif comments to NBC News … as meaning that Iran is willing to negotiate on its defensive missile program at some point," Miryousefi said in his tweet, according to Financial Tribune.
He criticized AP reporters for "drawing a false conclusion in pursuit of headlines".
"Surely AP reporters are familiar with conversational English to know and understand, and are able to contextualize comments on the hypothetical, as well as parrying with words to make a point," he said.
Presidential Chief of Staff Mahmoud Vaezi also reacted to the report, saying Zarif's words were absolutely clear and no part of it could be interpreted in such a way.
"Our defensive power is our redline and we have repeatedly announced that we will not negotiate on that," he told reporters after a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, ISNA reported.
Washington has pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal on grounds that it did not address the West's main concerns, including Iran's missile program.
It has been exerting maximum pressure on Tehran with sweeping economic sanctions to force it to come to the negotiating table for more concessions on its activities.
Speaking at the White House on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also suggested that Iran was willing to discuss its missile programs, apparently based on the same media report.
"For the first time, the Iranians have said that they're prepared to negotiate about their missile program," Pompeo said, adding the news came within the past several days, CNN reported.
US President Donald Trump also echoed that optimistic view, taking it as a progress in his plan for Iran.
"A lot of progress has been made. They'd like to talk," he said.
Zarif had said in the same interview that "the room for negotiation is wide open", but only once the US sanctions are lifted.
However, he suggested a high price for negotiations on the country's missile program, effectively ruling out any possibility for such talks.
Vaezi said it is the US that has left the P5+1 (UN Security Council's permanent members and Germany that signed the nuclear deal) while it was a platform to talk about nuclear issues.
"Now it is natural that if they return and lift the sanctions, this opportunity will occur for them within the P5+1," he said.
He maintained, however, the defensive programs will not be up for discussion at any point.
Iran insists that its nuclear program is aimed at peaceful purposes and that it does not intend to develop nuclear weapons.