Iran Agrees To Nuclear Swap Deal Through Turkey
Iran has agreed a deal to send low-enriched uranium (LEU) abroad in return for nuclear fuel, following mediation talks with Turkish and Brazilian leaders.
Their plan, signed on May 17 in Tehran, could revive a United Nations-backed proposal for easing the international standoff over Iran's disputed nuclear program.
After the agreement, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad called on the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany to hold fresh talks “based on honesty, justice, and mutual respect." The six world powers have been discussing a fourth round of UN sanctions on Iran.
Under the agreement, most of Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium would be sent to Turkey in return for 120 kilograms of nuclear fuel for a medical research reactor. The uranium transfer would take place within a month of the agreement's approval by major powers, who would then deliver the fuel to Tehran within one year.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran agrees to deposit 1,200 kilograms of LEU in Turkey," Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki said in Tehran, reading from the agreement. "While in Turkey, this LEU will continue to be the property of Iran. Iran and the IAEA may station observers to monitor the safe-keeping of the LEU in Turkey."
Notify The IAEA
Mottaki said Tehran would notify the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, about the agreement within a week.
"Upon the positive response of the Vienna group -- it means the United States, Russia, France, and the IAEA -- further details of the exchange will be elaborated through a written agreement and proper arrangement between Iran and the Vienna group," Mottaki said.
Today's deal was signed by Ahmadinejad, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Turkey and Brazil are nonpermanent members of the UN Security Council and have spoken out against imposing more sanctions against Iran for ignoring UN calls to halt its uranium enrichment program.
The West fears Iran wants highly enriched uranium to make an atomic bomb, a charge Tehran has denied.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu told reporters in Tehran that today’s agreement meant there was now no need for further punitive measures against Iran.
"For us, now, there is no grounds anymore for new sanctions or measures. It is now time to discuss, as it has been mentioned in the text -- Iran will write a letter to the IAEA and we hope that the IAEA in Vienna will react quickly and positively so that there will be a result in a very short period of time," Davutoglu said.
But it's not clear yet if the agreement is enough to satisfy the major powers -- led by the United States -- that have been pushing for fresh UN sanctions.
For one thing, Iran said after the deal was signed that it planned to continue work to enrich uranium to a 20-percent level -- a process that is at the core of Western concerns.
There was no immediate comment from the IAEA or Washington.
NATO's supreme commander, U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, called the agreement "a potentially good development."
The French and German governments both reacted with caution, saying they wanted to obtain more information about the deal.
France’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said the deal did not resolve the underlying dispute over Tehran's nuclear program.
The office of EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said the signed document was “a move in the right direction” but that “it does not answer all of the concerns raised over Iran's nuclear program.”
That was a point repeated by EU President Herman Van Rompuy, who was speaking in Spain.
"The European Union's position has been well known for months and it has not changed. We are seriously concerned about the nuclear program of Iran. Iran has so far refused to engage in serious discussions on reasonable concerns related to its nuclear program. Iran needs to reassure the international community about the intentions behind its nuclear program," Van Rompuy said.
Under the terms of the earlier UN-backed proposal, Iran would send 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium -- currently enriched to a level of 3.5 percent -- to Russia, where it would be further enriched to 20 percent and then sent to France for processing into nuclear fuel rods. Tehran would use the rods to power a research reactor that produces nuclear isotopes used for medical purposes.
Tehran agreed in principle to the deal in October but then demanded changes such as a simultaneous swap on Iranian soil -- conditions other parties in the deal said were unacceptable.
written by Antoine Blua, with agency reports
Copyright (c) 2010. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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