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Iran Agrees To Nuclear Swap Deal Through Turkey

Source: RFE/RL

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.

Standing (left to right): Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Sitting: Iranian and Turkish Foreign Ministers Manuchehr Mottaki and Ahmed Davutoglu

After the agreement, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad called on the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany for 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.

The agreement was announced by Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast, who said Tehran was ready to ship 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium -- representing most of its stockpile -- to Turkey, in return for nuclear fuel for a medical research reactor.

Deal Details Sketchy

Under the deal, Iran would send 3.5 percent low-enriched uranium to Turkey under the supervision of the UN nuclear agency.

Other details were not immediately available -- such as which country would provide Iran with the fuel.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu told reporters in Tehran that the agreement "should be regarded positively" and that there was "no need" for further UN sanctions against Iran.

There was no immediate comment from the IAEA or Washington, which has been leading a Western push to impose additional punitive measures on Tehran.

There was some reaction from Israel, however, with an unnamed senior official accusing Iran of "manipulating" the Turkish and Brazilian leaders.

Reuters news agency quoted a senior EU diplomat as saying today's deal cannot be considered a breakthrough unless it is fundamentally based on the terms of the earlier UN-backed proposal.

According to that proposal, Iran would send 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium 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.

... Payvand News - 05/17/10 ... --

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