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Iran offers to swap low-enriched uranium for fuel

AFP – December 12, 2009

Iran’s foreign minister on Saturday proposed that Tehran swap 400 kilos of low-enriched uranium for nuclear fuel in an exchange on a Gulf island as the first phase of a deal with world powers.

Any new sanctions against Tehran over its controversial nuclear programme “will have no impact,” Manouchehr Mottaki also said at a security conference in Bahrain.

“We are prepared to take 400 kilogrammes (880 pounds) of 3.5-percent enriched uranium to the island of Kish and exchange it” for the equivalent in 20-percent enriched uranium, he said.

He told the opening session of the conference in Manama that Iran agreed “in principle” to an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) proposal to swap 1,200 kilos of enriched uranium for nuclear fuel.

The 400-kilo exchange on Iran’s southern Gulf island, a free trade zone, could be an initial step in a process that would take several years, Mottaki told a later news conference.

The Islamic republic’s foreign minister said the process could begin “right away” if the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany agreed to the offer.

But the IAEA has already ruled out a swap taking place inside Iran.

“I don’t think that is an option. The whole purpose of the deal is to defuse the crisis,” outgoing chief Mohamed ElBaradei said last month at the agency’s Vienna base before handing over to his successor, Yukiya Amano.

In a deal brokered in October, it was proposed that Iran ship out most of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU) for further processing by Russia and France so it could be turned into the fuel needed for a research reactor.

The world powers have been pushing the UN nuclear watchdog-initiated plan for Iran to farm out its uranium enrichment work abroad.

Under the plan, Iran would be supplied with 20-percent enriched fuel in return for allaying Western concerns by shipping out most of its stocks of LEU.

Mottaki also told reporters that any new sanctions against Iran, which is already under three sets of sanctions for its refusal to halt enrichment, would run “against international law and the UN charter and will have no impact.”

Despite US and European threats of new sanctions because of its refusal to accept the October deal, Iran is ready for further talks on its nuclear programme with the UN Security Council permanent members plus Germany, he said.

“We are ready to continue dialogue with the permanent-five-plus-one,” Mottaki said.

But “wherever we are under constraints and wherever we need technology and are denied it, we will work to gain access to the technology ourselves,” he said.

Mottaki also said Iran would need up to 15 nuclear plants to cover the country’s domestic electricity needs over the next two decades.

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Khalifa, addressing the conference, opposed new sanctions against Iran, describing Tehran’s talks with the major powers as flawed.

“To move from a wrong system of talks and put sanctions on the people of Iran is not fair,” he said.

“Why did the five-plus-one talks fail? Because countries of the (Middle East) region were not included in these talks,” he said.

December 12, 2009 - Posted by | Wars for Israel

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