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Iran hints at acceptance of atom deal with powers
Mon Oct 26, 2009 3:54pm EDT
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By Reza Derakhshi
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran said on Monday it could endorse a U.N. deal for it to send potential nuclear fuel abroad for processing, the first official indication that Tehran could respond positively to the outline agreement.
The remark by Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was the most positive yet from a senior Iranian official and hinted at a shift in backroom debate between hardliners and moderates in the faction-ridden Iranian leadership on whether to accept the deal.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said it was urgent for world powers to make a lasting deal with Tehran to avert an Israeli strike over its disputed nuclear program.
"They (Israel) will not tolerate an Iranian bomb. We know that, all of us. So that is an additional risk and that is why we must decrease the tension and solve the problem. Hopefully we are going to stop this race to a confrontation," Kouchner said.
"There is the time that Israel will offer us before reacting, because Israel will react as soon as they know clearly that there is a threat," he added in an interview published by Britain's Daily Telegraph daily.
In Iran, Iranian officials said U.N. inspectors were given access to a hitherto secret uranium enrichment site bunkered inside a mountain near the holy Shi'ite city of Qom.
The four senior experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency intended to verify Tehran's stance that the plant was designed to make only low-enriched fuel for electricity, not the high-purity version for nuclear arms.
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign affairs committee, said later the inspectors had carried out their mission and suggested they may leave Iran later on Monday, ISNA news agency reported.
Diplomats in Vienna, where the IAEA is based, said the inspectors, who arrived in Iran on Sunday, had been expected to stay several days. It was not known if they had been granted all the access and provided all the documentation they wanted.
The IAEA declined to comment.
Understandings on the fuel plan and U.N. monitoring of the enrichment site under construction were struck at high-level Geneva talks between Iran and six world powers on October 1.
They see the deals as litmus tests of Iran's stated intent to use enriched uranium only for peaceful ends, and a basis for more ambitious negotiations on curbing enrichment in Iran to defuse a crisis over its nuclear aspirations.
IRAN LEANING TOWARD APPROVING FUEL PLAN?
Mottaki said Iran could either send part of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) stockpile abroad for specialized processing into fuel for a Tehran nuclear medicine facility that is running out of it, or buy the material from foreign suppliers.
"In order to obtain this fuel, we might spend money as in the past or we might present part of the fuel that we have right now, and currently do not need, for further processing," he was quoted by the official news agency IRNA as saying. Continued...
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