Iran intends to demand significant revisions to a U.N. proposal for France and Russia to refine a large portion of the Middle Eastern nation's low-enriched uranium, Iranian state media reported today (see GSN, Oct. 26).
Iran's al-Alam television station said Tehran plans to respond within "48 hours" to the proposal, which was aimed at eliminating immediate concerns that Tehran could produce enough material for a nuclear weapon from the uranium in its existing stockpile. France, Russia and the United States have already indicated their support for the plan, proposed last week by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei at the end of three days of talks between the four nations in Vienna, Austria.
"Iran will accept the broad framework of the deal, but wants very important changes in it," the Iranian channel stated, according to Agence France-Presse.
ElBaradei's plan calls for Iran to send 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium abroad from its estimated 1,500-kilogram stockpile of the material, France has indicated. The material would undergo additional enrichment and be returned to Iran for use in a medical research reactor in Tehran (Deshmukh/Pouladi, Agence France-Presse I/Google News, Oct. 27).
Mohsen Rezai, the secretary of Iran's powerful Expediency Council, said Sunday that Tehran should retain 1,100 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium under any agreement, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported (Golnaz Esfandiari, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Oct. 26).
Ongoing debate among Iranian lawmakers over the U.N. plan could help Tehran frame any acceptance of the proposal as a significant compromise, one expert told Reuters. Such a move could be aimed at decreasing international pressure on the nation to halt its uranium enrichment program, an effort that has concerned Western powers because it could produce highly enriched nuclear weapon material as well as low-enriched nuclear power plant fuel, the Iranian analyst said. Iran has insisted its nuclear ambitions are strictly peaceful (Reza Derakhshi, Reuters, Oct. 26).
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki yesterday expressed interest in purchasing Chinese uranium for the research reactor, RIA Novosti reported.
"If the Chinese side is ready for dialogue on enriched uranium deliveries, Iran will be ready for cooperation," Mottaki said (RIA Novosti I, Oct. 26).
By delaying its response to ElBaradei's proposal, Iran is squandering time it could be using to seek a resolution to the nuclear dispute, France warned today.
"Iran is wasting time because now is the time for talking. One day, it will be too late," AFP quoted French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner as saying.
Last month, Paris warned that Iran could face new economic penalties if it failed to to comply with international nuclear demands before an informal December deadline.
Iran's foreign minister "makes these declarations, then he reformulates them. They rarely provoke enthusiasm, they are rarely very positive," Kouchner added.
"We have been waiting for light at the end of the tunnel for almost three years. We will wait until we decide that enough is enough and that the process is exhausted," he said (Agence France-Presse II/Spacewar.com, Oct. 27).
Meanwhile, representatives from the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany in a telephone call reaffirmed the need to show unity in addressing Iran's disputed nuclear activities, the U.S. State Department said.
"They discussed the need for unity of the P-5-plus-one in our approach to the issue of Iran's nuclear program," said spokesman Ian Kelly.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana was working to organize a new meeting of delegates from the six world powers and Iran, Kelly added. The last negotiations between the seven governments took place earlier this month.
"It's a matter of discussion between Mr. Solana and the Iranian authorities, but nothing's been set in terms of follow-on meetings," Kelly said (Agence France-Presse III/Google News, Oct. 26).
Solana today said he would seek to put the nations in contact tomorrow.
"I would hope to have contact tomorrow, probably telephonically. We'll see how things can develop from here till the end of the month," he said (Agence France-Presse IV/Spacewar.com, Oct. 27).
Elsewhere, four IAEA officials have wrapped up their probe of Iran's recently disclosed and still-unfinished Qum uranium enrichment facility, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
"The inspectors of the agency have finished their job at [Qum]," Iranian lawmaker Alaeddin Boroujerdi said, according to state media. U.N. inspectors typically exit the country upon completing such work, he noted (Xinhua News Agency I, Oct. 27).
Numerous countries are competing to supply Iran with gasoline, the nation's representative to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries was quoted as saying.
"Given the (current) situation, it seems unlikely that Iran comes up with a problem in supplying (its needed) gasoline in future for we are facing a large number of suppliers, therefore, we will certainly have no problem," Mohammad Ali Khatibi said, according to Iranian media.
Washington is considering legislation aimed at pressuring Iran to cooperate over its nuclear program by curbing the nation's ability to import gasoline and other refined oil products (Xinhua News Agency II/Crienglish.com, Oct. 27).
Iran yesterday urged Russia to complete its Bushehr nuclear power plant in accordance with an agreed time line, RIA Novosti reported.
"We (Iran) expect Russian company Atomstroiexport and the Russian government, which supervises the company's work, to honor their commitments to launch the Bushehr nuclear power plant ... on time," Mottaki said.
The plant could begin operating by the end of 2009, Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko had said previously (RIA Novosti II, Oct. 26).
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday began a high-profile trip to Iran that could undercut the ability of Washington and its allies to make progress in nuclear negotiations with Tehran, the Washington Times reported.
The leader of the longtime Western ally brushed off concerns that Iran seeks to build nuclear bombs, referring to such allegations as "gossip."
"Iran does not accept it is building a weapon. They are working on nuclear power for the purposes of energy only," Erdogan said (Iason Athanasiadis, Washington Times, Oct. 27).
Attempting to attack Iran's nuclear facilities would be an act of madness, he told the London Guardian, according to the Qatar News Agency (Qatar News Agency, Oct. 26).