Thursday, October 2, 2008

Too good to be true? Iran official: We may halt enrichment for nuclear fuel guarantees

If this is a real offer, it is very important. However, it is doubtful that a minor official would be relegated to making an important offer like this one, after Iran has repeatedly declared it would never give up its enrichment program.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 22:03 02/10/2008   
By Reuters
Iran would consider stopping sensitive uranium enrichment if guaranteed a supply of nuclear fuel from abroad, an Iranian official suggested on Thursday.
For that to happen, United Nations inspectors would have to verify Iran's disputed nuclear program is wholly peaceful and a range of international sanctions against Tehran be lifted. There is little prospect of either on the horizon.
Iran has previously brushed off big power offers of an assured foreign fuel supply, possibly via a production centre under the impartial control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), if it renounced enrichment.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the UN nuclear watchdog, said the reason why the Islamic Republic was enriching uranium was the lack of an legally binding international accord on security of fuel supply.
Asked if with such a deal Iran would shelve enrichment, he said that arrangement would be a first step but it would have to be implemented, and Iran would need to retain some enrichment as a contingency in case supplies were cut.
"This is a first step ..., then the next step is to see it really implemented," he told reporters at a Brussels conference.
If this were carried out, "then Iran would be able to reconsider the position that we have now. The situation would be different, we would have to see", Soltanieh said.
"Plus every country has to be cautious to have as a contingency plan a fuel reserve in case of interruption."
Iran is trying to master nuclear fuel-cycle technology that could yield electricity - its stated goal - or give it the capability to make atom bombs if the process is adjusted, which Israel and Western powers suspect is Tehran's underlying purpose.
On Wednesday, the former head of the U.S. weapons-hunting team in Iraq said Iran is two years to five years away from being able to produce a nuclear weapon.
Tehran has defied UN resolutions demanding it suspend enrichment and withheld cooperation needed to resolve a UN nuclear watchdog probe into whether it researched ways to build bombs. Iran denies the charges but not given backup evidence.
Soltanieh also said the West was trying to humiliate Iran by seeking to prevent it doing nuclear research and development.
Speaking at a think-tank in New York, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran would not be dragged down an "unending road" in dealings with the IAEA, adding Washington was perpetuating a "huge lie" about Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"For the United States, it is difficult to accept the peaceful nature of Iran's programme because once it accepts, it can no longer oppose," Mottaki told the Asia Society.
Iran says it has no intention of making atom bombs, noting its commitment to continued IAEA inspections of nuclear sites.
It also denies blocking the IAEA inquiry but says that inspectors, egged on Iran's arch-foe the United States, are seeking unacceptable access to purely conventional military sites whose exposure would jeopardise its security.
The IAEA and Western nations say Iran must grant such access to clear up intelligence allegations of military involvement in the nuclear program. More generally, Iran should stop limiting inspector movements to declared nuclear sites, they say.
"Iran [should] implement all transparency measures... required to build confidence... This will be good for Iran, good for the Middle East region and good for the world," IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei told the annual 145-nation assembly of the UN watchdog in Vienna this week.

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