Iran welcomes Turkish, Brazilian nuclear fuel ideas
Iran voiced optimism about Turkish and Brazilian mediation efforts in its nuclear dispute with the West, saying it welcomed in principle ideas aimed at reviving a stalled nuclear fuel deal with major powers, Reuters reported.Turkey and Brazil, both non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, have been trying to resuscitate the fuel plan in a bid to stave off further sanctions on Iran.
The Obama administration earlier this week accused Tehran of trying to buy time by accepting Brazil's offer to mediate and said the United States would be undeterred in its push for new punitive U.N. measures against the Islamic Republic.
Asked about Turkish and Brazilian proposals, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said "new formulas have been raised about the exchange of fuel." His statement was carried by the daily Iran newspaper on Saturday.
"I think we can arrive at practical agreements on these formulas," he said. "That is why we welcomed the proposals in principle ... and left the details for more examination."
He did not elaborate on the content of the proposals or say when they were presented. Last year's U.N.-drafted plan revolved around Iran sending uranium abroad for further processing to help ease concerns about Iran's atomic ambitions.
His comments appeared to be part of an Iranian attempt to avert a new round of U.N. sanctions on Tehran over a nuclear program the West fears is designed to develop bombs. Iran, a major oil producer, says it only seeks to generate electricity.
Analysts say Iran may be trying to split the six world powers -- the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China -- which are discussing imposing more punitive steps against the Islamic Republic.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will travel to Tehran at the end of next week to work on a negotiated solution with Iran, his foreign minister told Reuters on Friday, adding he saw a window of opportunity.
Iran's semi-official Mehr News Agency said Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan would also be in Tehran on May 16, but his office said there were currently no such plans.
The fuel plan is seen as a way to remove much of Iran's low-enriched uranium (LEU) stockpile to minimize the risk of this being used for atomic bombs, while Iran would get specially processed fuel to keep its nuclear medicine program running.
But the proposal broke down over Iran's insistence on doing the swap only on its territory, rather than shipping its LEU abroad in advance, and in smaller, phased amounts, meaning no meaningful cut in a stockpile which grows day by day.
Western officials have dismissed an Iranian counterproposal.
The United States is lobbying U.N. Security Council members to back sanctions including proposed measures targeting Iranian banks, shipping and the country's all-important energy sector.
Russia and China, permanent members of the Security Council which have significant commercial links with Iran, have said they are willing to give Turkey and Brazil more time.
Brazil favors a mooted compromise in which Iran could export its uranium to another country in return for higher-enriched fuel for a Tehran research reactor. Iran has so far insisted the exchange must take place on its territory.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called for flexibility from Iran, while indicating that nations pressing Tehran on its nuclear program may also have to compromise.
"A certain gap remains between the Iran version of this fuel deal and what the (U.N. nuclear agency) proposed," he said in a radio interview posted on Russia's Foreign Ministry website.
"For this reason it's necessary to exert additional effort and to show a certain flexibility, including from the Iranian side, in order to find a mutually acceptable solution," he said.