Iran's uranium exchange and ambiguities – Trend commentator
Dalga Khatinoglu, Trend Persian Desk Head
Although Turkey and Iran signed an agreement to exchange 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium in Turkey, there are uncertainties.
During his visit to Greece, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he canceled his visit to Iran. He said the main reason was Iran's nonconstructive position on nuclear fuel. But two days after this statement, Erdogan immediately left for Tehran.
Brazilian President Lula da Silva, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Erdogan signed an agreement on nuclear fuel exchange May 17.
Of course, to some extent, this step improves the poor relations existing between Iran and the international community. On the other hand, the uranium exchange may become a pretext for Tehran to begin talks on a nuclear program with the West. But Iran's nuclear program is still as uncertain as before. Urgent problems remain nuclear weapons testing and Iran's participation in the Additional Protocol of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Official Tehran's position changed in a single day. It was a hasty decision, which was likely not discussed in the country. Thus, the probability exists that the deal will be canceled under pressure from radical forces. The permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are discussing new sanctions against Iran, and these talks will lead to canceling Iran's decision.
In October 2009, upon the initiative of former IAEA Secretary General Mohamed ElBaradei, 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium had to be exported from Iran, enriched to 20 percent and then transformed into fuel. The uranium was then to be returned to Iran. This fuel was supposed to provide a nuclear laboratory built by the United States in 1960.
The laboratory produces medical radioisotopes.
Although the West supports ElBaradei's initiative, Iran, citing a "lack of confidence in the West and the probability of fraud," refused to exchange uranium. In 2009, Iran's 3.5-percent uranium reserves totaled 1,500 kilograms. Sending 1,200 kilograms abroad would mean exporting 70 percent of Tehran's uranium reserves. Having enriched 1,500 kilograms to 90 percent, Iran could produce nuclear weapons.
On the other hand, Iran enriched 100 kilograms of 3.5-percent enriched uranium to 20 percent in early 2010 to produce fuel at the Tehran laboratory and now the country has 10 kilograms of 20-percent enriched uranium. Although the agreement signed between Iran, Turkey and Brazil, stipulates sending 1,200 kilograms of 3.5-percent enriched uranium to Turkey, the fate of the 20-percent enriched uranium was not clarified.
In addition to the agreement, a joint statement by Erdogan, Silva and Ahmadinejad says Iran is entitled to uranium enrichment, despite the fact that each of the U.N. Security Council's five resolutions against Tehran has urgently demanded the suspension of uranium enrichment since 2006. On the other hand, the West and the IAEA demand that Iran join the additional protocols to the Convention on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which Iran refuses to do.
Iran's consent on a uranium exchange could be an encouraging step, but only on the condition that the exchange would start Iran's constructive discussions with the West.