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Iran wants big changes to nuclear deal with powers
Tue Oct 27, 2009 10:22am EDT
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By Parisa Hafezi
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran wants major amendments within the framework of a U.N. nuclear fuel deal which it says it broadly accepts, a move that could unravel the plan and expose Tehran to the threat of harsher sanctions.
The European Union's foreign policy chief said on Tuesday there was no need to rework the U.N. draft and he and France's foreign minister suggested Tehran would expose itself to tougher international sanctions if tried to undo the plan.
Among the central planks of the plan opposed by Iran -- but requested by the West to cut the risk of an Iranian atom bomb -- was for it to send most of its low-enriched uranium reserve abroad for processing all in one go, state television said.
Iran says it is enriching uranium only for nuclear power plant fuel, not for weaponry. But its history of nuclear secrecy and continued restrictions on U.N. inspections have raised Western suspicions of a covert bomb agenda.
Citing an unnamed official, the Arabic-language satellite television station said on Tuesday Iran would present its response to the proposed agreement within 48 hours, a week after a deadline set by its author, U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei.
Al Alam said Iran would "agree to the general framework of the draft proposal but will request some important amendments."
It did not elaborate on the changes Tehran would seek to the draft agreement ElBaradei hammered out in consultations with Iran, Russia, France and the United States in Vienna last week.
But senior lawmakers have said Iran should import foreign fuel rather than send abroad by the end of this year much of its own low-enriched uranium (LEU) stock -- its crucial strategic asset in talks with world powers -- as the proposal calls for.
Iran's foreign minister said on Monday it may want to do both under the deal, hinting Tehran could ship out much less LEU than the amount big powers want to delay by at least a year the possibility of Iran "weaponizing" enriched uranium.
The draft pact calls for Iran to transfer around 75 percent of its known 1.5 tons of LEU to Russia for further enrichment by the end of this year, then to France for conversion into fuel plates. These would be returned to Tehran to power a research reactor that produces radio-isotopes for cancer treatment.
HIGH-LEVEL UNDERSTANDINGS IN GENEVA
Understandings on the fuel plan and U.N. monitoring of a newly-disclosed enrichment site under construction were forged at Geneva talks on October 1 between Iran and six world powers -- the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain.
A team of U.N. inspectors arrived in Iran early on Sunday to visit the new site 160 km south of Tehran. Western diplomats said Iran was forced to reveal the plant to the IAEA last month after learning that Western spy services had detected it.
Iran's pledges in Geneva deflated pressure for wider sanctions targeting its oil sector but Western powers stressed they would not wait indefinitely for Tehran to follow through.
They see the two 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 by Tehran to resolve a standoff over its nuclear aspirations. Continued...
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