TEHRAN - Allowing Iran to join the World Trade Organisation should not be considered as an incentive during nuclear negotiations with the European Union, its commerce minister was quoted as saying Friday.
"Whether the United States and Europe accept it or not, this is not a favour to Iran and they cannot demand something from Iran in return," Mohammad Shariatmadari told the student news agency ISNA.
The minister said Iran joining the WTO would merely benefit the United States and the EU, by giving them "freer access" to the Iranian market.
WTO membership is one of the "carrots" being dangled in front of Iran by the European Union's 'big three' -- Britain, France and Germany -- in negotiations aimed at securing guarantees the clerical regime will not seek nuclear weapons.
The United States, which has consistently vetoed Iran's membership of the 148-member pact, is also reportedly considering reversing its position in order to boost the European diplomatic effort.
But Shariatmadari said that if Iran were to join the bloc, it was the EU and US "who should be providing some privileges to us" -- and he added that Iran "is not very willing to join the WTO under the current circumstances."
Supporting Iran's membership of the WTO has been presented by the EU as a tangible "incentive" for the Islamic republic, along with a separate trade agreement, easing its security concerns and offering technological help on peaceful nuclear technology.
The EU is seeking "objective guarantees" that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons or press on with the capacity to make them -- and wants Iran to abandon its work on the nuclear fuel cycle, especially uranium enrichment.
Enrichment is a process which makes nuclear fuel but can also be the explosive core of atomic bombs. Iran says it only wants to generate atomic energy, and argues such work is therefore authorised by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).