Tehran protesters demand that Iran retain its nuclear program

TEHRAN — Protesters at a boisterous rally after Friday prayers demanded that Iran retain its nuclear “rights,” as the public voiced its displeasure with the lack of concrete results from ongoing negotiations with world powers.

Echoing earlier comments from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, the protesters vowed that Iran would not shut down its nuclear program or relinquish its uranium enrichment capabilities.

“Full nuclear cycle is our inalienable right!” chanted the protesters, who expressed fear that Iran’s leadership would cave in to demands from the six world powers to dismantle the nation’s nuclear program.

Many Iranians, eager for a lifting of crippling economic sanctions, are unhappy about the lack of tangible progress in the talks, which seek to build on an interim deal brokered last year.

“I think our officials are wasting their time — there is no light at the end of the tunnel for us,” said Somaye Danesh, a homemaker holding the hand of her 4-year-old daughter after leaving Friday’s rally.

Though hard-line conservatives have long been skeptical of the nuclear talks, even some moderates have questioned whether President Hassan Rouhani might be willing to give too much away in an effort to lessen the grip of international sanctions. Many Iranians view the nation's nuclear program as a source of pride.

“The Iranian government of Rouhani is secretly compromising,” said Hoshang Tale, a former member of parliament.

Iran says its uranium enrichment program is strictly for peaceful purposes, such as generating electricity. But some Western nations fear Tehran is seeking the capability to build a nuclear bomb.

Iran wants to have the sanctions removed in exchange for constraints on its nuclear program and a stricter international inspection regimen.

A sense of frustration appears to be building as Iranian negotiators continue a series of meetings in Vienna with representatives of the so-called P5-plus-1 nations: the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany. Officials on both sides have said progress is being made and that a final deal could be crafted by the July 20 deadline. But participants also say key issues remain to be addressed.

A major worry in Tehran is that world powers might attempt to use the talks as leverage on other sensitive issues, such as Iran’s ballistic missile program or its human rights record.

“We know that after finalizing a deal with them on July 20,  or whenever, there will be another effort to increase pressure on us,” said Mohammad Amiri, a cleric and member of parliament who spoke after Friday prayers. “Their mischievous measures will not let up.”

Iranian lawmakers and others were outraged last week when the European Parliament passed a resolution expressing concern about human rights conditions in Iran and questioning Tehran’s election procedures.

“Their secret agenda is not finalizing a nuclear deal with Iran.... They want to promote sodomy and homosexuality in Iran,” said Ali Haghighat, a former public relations manager in the mining industry. “But it is good to keep the enemies of Iran busy by talking to them. That keeps them away from malicious actions against us.”


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Mostaghim is a special correspondent. Times staff writer Patrick J. McDonnell in Beirut contributed to this report.

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