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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran Adds Caveat to Nuclear Cooperation Deal

By Elizabeth Arrott
29 October 2009

Iran has given its formal response to a U.N. plan for processing its nuclear material. Details remained sketchy, but it appears Tehran has put a few conditions on what appeared to be a take-it-or-leave-it deal.

Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency says his country has taken a positive approach to talks on uranium enrichment.

But in comments carried on Iran's Press TV, Ali Asghar Soltanieh appeared to downplay the importance of the discussion, as well as suggest that more talking is needed.

"In the course of such a meeting, which is merely a technical discussion between Iran and the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the economic and technical concerns have to be taken into consideration when dealing with the modality of the supply of the fuel," he said.

His reference to economic and technical issues appears to reinforce reports that Iran will seek to place some conditions on the original plan, that was intended to ease Western concerns about Iran's enrichment of uranium.

The IAEA wants Tehran to send most of its uranium stockpile to Russia for about 20-percent enrichment - useful for energy purposes, but well below the level of enrichment for use in weapons.

The fuel would then go to France to be turned into fuel rods or plates, and returned to Iran by the end of next year.

Iranian media have been reporting Tehran wants to send the uranium abroad not all at once, but gradually. The reports say Iran will also seek enriched uranium to replace that which it sends abroad.

Iran has complained about France's role in the deal. Paris has taken a particularly hard line against Iran's nuclear activities and the Iranian media reports express doubts that France would be an honest broker.

Earlier in the day, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tehran will cooperate with the IAEA.

But he added that Iran will not give up any of what he called, "its nuclear rights."

Iran has a long history of creating obstacles to IAEA monitoring of its nuclear program, which the West suspects may have a military component.

Tehran denies the charge, and says the West has unfairly targeted Iran with sanctions and military actions.

U.N. inspectors Thursday returned from reviewing one of the causes of the West's suspicions. The monitors said they had a good trip to Iran's recently disclosed nuclear facility on a military base near Qom.

The plant was apparently known to Western intelligence agencies for several years, but was reportedly revealed by the Iranian government only when it learned the facility's secrecy had been compromised.

The inspectors' report is expected to be made public next month.

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