Iran today ruled out sending a greater quantity of its stockpiled uranium to other countries under a potential revised version of a 2009 fuel exchange proposal the Middle Eastern nation also rejected, Reuters reported (see GSN, Nov. 1).
Under the 2009 proposal put forward by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran would have exchanged 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium for material refined for use at a medical isotope production reactor in Tehran. The plan worked out with France, Russia and the United States was aimed in part at deferring Iran's ability to produce sufficient weapon material for a bomb long enough to more fully address U.S. and European concerns about Iranian enrichment activities. Tehran has maintained its atomic ambitions are strictly peaceful.
Washington and European governments were reportedly updating the plan to require a larger exchange of Iranian uranium to account for the nation's continued production of the material over the last year (see GSN, Oct. 28).
"I'm afraid there is no logic for these kind of statements," Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in reference to New York Times report that a new Western proposal would require Tehran to swap out roughly 2 metric tons of its low-enriched uranium, 66 percent more material than the amount demanded under last year's proposal.
Iran only requires 120 kilograms of fuel for the medical reactor, Soltanieh said.
"Therefore when we don't need more fuel it is ridiculous to ask to have more (LEU) to send out," he said. "This (demand) could only be interpreted as sort of an excuse not to come to the negotiating table" (Fredrik Dahl, Reuters I, Nov. 2).
An exchange plan developed in May by Iran, Turkey and Brazil as an alternative to last year's IAEA proposal would serve as the basis for talks proposed this month between Iran and the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany, the Xinhua News Agency quoted Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast as saying today (see GSN, May 17; Xinhua News Agency, Nov. 2).
It would make no strategic sense for Iran to develop nuclear armaments because the nation could not develop a deterrent comparable in size to those of the established nuclear weapons states, Soltanieh added yesterday.
"That is the reason we will never make this strategic mistake," he said. "We are as strong as those countries without nuclear weapons."
Iran "is to be taken seriously when it says it will not actually weaponize," said former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, co-chairman of the International Commission on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament.
"A number of reasons" exist "for thinking that Iran will ... stop well short of actually making nuclear weapons that it may soon have the capability to produce," Evans said. Among such factors were the possibility of Israeli strikes, greater international isolation and the negative view of weapons of mass destruction shared by Muslims.
"This is not a factor to which Western cynics would give much credence but I have to say it is echoed very strongly in every private conversation I've ever had with Iranian officials," he said
Evans suggested economic penalties against Iran be lifted in exchange for Tehran's acceptance of tough atomic monitoring measures. Such an arrangement could give other governments around one year in "lead time in which to respond to any evidence of real intent to move to weaponization," he said (Fredrik Dahl, Reuters II, Nov. 1).
Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary William Hague is set tomorrow to discuss the Iranian nuclear dispute with a number of Israeli officials, Haaretz reported. Hague would seek to learn in greater detail about Jerusalem's stance on the atomic threat posed by Tehran (Barak Ravid, Haaretz, Nov. 2).
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also addressed the standoff during a meeting yesterday in Vietnam, Interfax reported (Interfax, Nov. 1).