Iran Accepts Nuclear-Fuel Swap Deal
NEWS, 17 May 2010
AlJazeera – TRANSCEND Media Service
Iran has signed an agreement brokered by Brazil to ship low-enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for nuclear fuel for its power plant, according to official media.
The deal agreed on Monday [17 May 2010] would see Iran send Turkey 1.2 tonnes of uranium under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Nuclear fuel received in exchange would be used for an Iranian medical research reactor.
The move aims to ease Western concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme, and stave off a possible new round of sanctions by the United Nations.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, signed the deal on Monday following a breakfast with his Brazilian counterpart and the Turkish prime minister.
After the deal’s announcement, Ahmadinejad called on the permanent members of the UN security council, as well as Germany, to relaunch dialogue over Iran’s nuclear programe.
“It is time for the 5+1 countries to enter talks with Iran based on honesty, justice and mutual respect,” he said.
It was not immediately clear whether the terms of the deal would fully satisfy the demands made by the UN security council members.
Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, first announced that a deal was agreed late on Sunday after what he said was “almost 18 hours of negotiations”.
Speaking after Monday’s formal signing, Davutoglu said there was no longer any justification for more UN sanctions on Iran.
“The swap deal, signed by Iran today, shows that Tehran wants to open a constructive path … There is no more ground for new sanctions and pressures,” he said.
The swap would take place in Turkey, and could begin within a month, a Turkish foreign ministry spokesman said.
Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian foreign minister, said in the event the deal is not implemented, Iran’s uranium must be returned.
“Based on the agreement signed this morning, if the swap does not take place, then Turkey will be obliged to send back our dispatched uranium immediately and unconditionally,” Mottaki said.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s president, had flown in to broker the deal, in what was being called a last-ditch mediation attempt before new sanctions were discussed.
The US and Russia had warned that the chances of success were weak but on Sunday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime mininster, postponed a trip to Azerbaijan to join the negotiations.
Iran has previously been reluctant to allow its stockpile of uranium to leave the country before receiving the nuclear fuel, saying that the exchange must take place simultaneously inside the country.
Last week, however, Mohsen Shaterzadeh, Iran’s ambassador to Brazil, said that an exchange in another country might be acceptable.
Brazil and Turkey, both non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, had resisted US-led efforts to push through new sanctions against Iran over its failure to accept repeated ultimatums to stop uranium enrichment activity.
“I think Iran has an interest in keeping Turkey on its side, in keeping Brazil on its side, and it has an interest to add more friends than enemies,” Mahjoob Zweiri, an Iran expert at Qatar University, told Al Jazeera.
The US and its allies say that Iran wants highly enriched uranium to make an atomic weapon, but Tehran says its programme is simply designed to meet its civilian energy needs.
Lula has in the past defended Iran’s nuclear activities, saying Tehran has the right to atomic energy, and has repeatedly said sanctions would be counter-productive and ineffective.
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