Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Iranian Regime Rejects U.N.-Drafted Nuclear Fuel Deal

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Agence France Presse (AFP)

Iran on Wednesday rejected plans for it to send most of its stocks of low-enriched uranium abroad, delivering a severe blow to UN-brokered efforts to allay Western concerns over its nuclear ambitions. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran has ruled out proposals backed by the major powers for it to ship out more than 70 percent of its stocks before receiving any nuclear fuel in return, the ISNA news agency reported. France, which had been set to play a central role in the proposed deal, swiftly expressed disappointment with the Iranian position. "There is a clear and negative response from the Iranians," Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said, adding that France will nevertheless continue to speak with Iran. France slams Iran's stance Mottaki said Iran is prepared to consider the idea of a simultaneous exchange of uranium for fuel but the UN nuclear watchdog, which has been brokering the negotiations, has already said that idea is unacceptable to the Western powers. "We will definitely not send out our 3.5 percent enriched uranium," Mottaki said. He said Tehran is ready to "consider swapping the fuel simultaneously in Iran" and is prepared to enter new talks with the major powers.

But International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei already made clear earlier this month that there is no possibility of changing the provision for Iran to ship out its uranium stocks before receiving higher enriched fuel for a Tehran research reactor. A simultaneous exchange "would not defuse the crisis, and the whole idea is to defuse the crisis," ElBaradei said in an interview with the New York Times. Western leaders have expressed fears that Iran might covertly divert some of its uranium stocks and enrich them further to the much higher levels of purity required to make an atomic bomb, an ambition Iranian officials strongly deny. Western governments support the UN-brokered deal because they believe it would leave Iran with insufficient stocks of low-enriched uranium with which to make a bomb. Iran's envoy to the UN nuclear watchdog Ali Asghar Soltanieh said the main problem is a lack of trust between Tehran and Washington after three decades of diplomatic rupture. (Read more...)