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Iran may call for a nuclear fuel swap, Iranian TV reports

A state-owned station says officials may compromise on a U.N. bid to have its uranium refined abroad. Iran may seek a 'simultaneous exchange' of enriched uranium for medical reactor uranium plates.

November 09, 2009|Borzou Daragahi

DOHA, QATAR — A state-owned Iranian television station quoted unnamed diplomats Sunday as saying Iran, in a possible compromise to a U.N.-backed proposal, is willing to send about 1,800 pounds of its enriched uranium abroad to be exchanged for fuel for a medical reactor.

The original proposal, backed by the Obama administration, had called for Iran to send abroad about 2,600 pounds, or 70% of its nuclear material supply, by year's end, temporarily lowering Iran's capacity to build a nuclear bomb and creating the diplomatic breathing room for a possible broader deal. Although Iran maintains that its nuclear development program is for civilian purposes only, Western nations believe the Islamic Republic is seeking to build nuclear weapons.

Diplomats looking for a way out of a years-long impasse over the nuclear program weeks ago proposed a deal in which Iran would give up the bulk of its refined uranium to be further refined in Russia and France for the Tehran medical reactor.

The report Sunday on the Press TV website said Iran instead sought a "two-staged, simultaneous exchange" of about 1,800 pounds of its enriched uranium for 265 pounds of medical reactor uranium plates.

No other source confirmed such an Iranian counteroffer.

Iran has yet to formally reply to the United Nations-backed export proposal.

Some Iranian officials said they did not trust Russia and France to follow through on the offer to enrich the fissile material for use in the medical reactor.

On Saturday, the head of the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign affairs committee said Iran would refuse to send any of its low-enriched uranium abroad. But diplomats and arms-control authorities have yet to give up on the proposal.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov paid a surprise visit to Tehran on Sunday to meet with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told the German weekly Der Spiegel that Moscow may back further sanctions if ongoing negotiations fail. French officials say Washington has asked European allies to hold off until the end of the year before raising the possibility of new sanctions on Iran.

Iran already has more than enough low-enriched uranium to fuel a single nuclear bomb if it were to further refine its supply, a move that would break its treaty obligations.

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daragahi@latimes.com

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