Iran seeks changes to international uranium deal

October 30th, 2009 - 4:26 am ICT by IANS  

Vienna/Tehran, Oct 30 (DPA) Iran delivered its reply to a planned nuclear fuel deal Thursday, but demanded amendments to the proposal designed to reduce Iran’s enriched uranium stock and build confidence in its nuclear intentions.
The US, Russia and France already told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that they approve of the four-country deal drafted by the Vienna-based organisation, under which Iran would ship enriched uranium to Russia and France for further processing into fuel for a medical-purpose reactor in Tehran.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, earlier told the ISNA news agency that his country had a positive approach to such a scheme but that it asked for “important technical and economic amendments” to the plan by IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei.

“The director general is engaged in consultations with the government of Iran, as well as all relevant parties, with the hope that agreement on his proposal can be reached soon,” the IAEA said, describing Iran’s response as “initial”.

In Washington, US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly did not rule out the possibility of altering the proposal, but said the US was seeking to clarify the Iranian position.

“We think it’s a good agreement, and it’s a very balanced agreement. It represents confidence-building step for all parties,” Kelly said, adding “we need further clarification”.

“It’s also fair to say that we need to have a formal response from Iran. At this point, we’ve been given some details of it, but we’re still talking to the Iranians about it.”

Western diplomats have described this nuclear fuel arrangement as a way for Iran to prove that it is enriching uranium for civilian purposes, and that it will not use this technology to make nuclear weapons.

In Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad welcomed the proposal, but said that the other countries involved should also fulfil their commitments, “unlike in the last thirty years” after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

This would be also a test for the IAEA to play its “real role” in assisting countries pursuing civil nuclear technology, he said in a speech in Mashad that was broadcast on television.

Iran reportedly wants some changes, such as: not shipping out the whole 1.2 tonnes of uranium but exporting it either in several phases or purchasing part of the high-enriched uranium without exchanging it for Iranian material.

Diplomats told the DPA that Tehran would find it difficult to buy nuclear fuel because of UN Security Council sanctions.

Khabar news network reported that European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeid Jalili agreed in a phone call to resume talks, but that they did not fix a date.

Solana said earlier this week that no fundamental changes to the IAEA’s proposal were needed.

Following the talks in Geneva Oct 1, Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council member states, plus Germany, agreed to resume talks at the end of October, but have since postponed the meeting.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Thursday that the uranium exchange deal would only delay by one year Tehran’s alleged progress toward a nuclear weapon, and that it would recognise Iran’s uranium enrichment programme.

“It is important to insist on an end to enrichment in Iran,” Barak told Israel Radio.

The UN Security Council is demanding a halt to enrichment, but the countries negotiating with Iran - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the US - have proposed that Iran should initially only stop expanding its enrichment plant at Natanz as a sign of goodwill, rather than halting the plant itself.

Iran revealed in September that it has been constructing a second enrichment plant. An IAEA team returned from a first visit to the so-called Fordu site Thursday.

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