Thu, Mar 18, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Iran ready for one-shot uranium swap, but with a caveat

AFP , TEHRAN

Iran is ready to deliver 1,200kg of low-enriched uranium (LEU) in one go in return for fuel for a Tehran reactor, but the exchange must be inside the country, the hardline Jawan newspaper quoted nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi as saying yesterday.

Salehi said Iran had earlier proposed to deliver its low-enriched uranium in batches of 400kg.

“But this has no technical justification because those who want to produce the [20 percent enriched] fuel say that this amount has no economic justification,” Salehi said in an interview with the newspaper.

“What we are saying now is that we are ready to deliver the total amount of fuel in one go on condition that the exchange take place inside Iran and simultaneously,” he said.

“We are ready to deliver 1,200kg and to receive 120kg of 20 percent enriched uranium.”

Iran’s latest offer is significant as it had previously baulked at the idea of delivering 1,200kg of LEU in one go as envisaged in a plan drawn up by the UN nuclear watchdog in October after talks with major powers.

Iran had said it would only hand over its LEU stocks in phases.

Officials had strongly opposed the International Atomic Energy Agency plan as they saw it as a ruse by Western powers to deprive Iran of its uranium stockpile and had put forward a rival proposal to either buy the 20 percent enriched uranium fuel on the international market or conduct a fuel swap in stages on Iranian territory.

Salehi said what was important for Iran was that the exchange of the fuel happen on its own soil and that it be given guarantees it would receive the 20 percent enriched uranium.

“When we say that the exchange has to happen inside Iran, it means the [IAEA] will take control of 1,200kg of our LEU and then seal it,” Salehi said.

He said the UN watchdog’s representatives could then “monitor it 24 hours a day and ensure that nobody broke the seal.”

“When they [the major powers] deliver the 20 percent fuel to us, they can then take the LEU out of the country,” he said.

Western governments have opposed the idea of trading the fuel inside Iran and in recent weeks have stepped up pressure for a new round of UN sanctions against Tehran with Moscow’s support.

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