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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iran Signals Reluctance to Uranium Export Proposal

The United Nations nuclear agency began consulting Thursday with the world powers and Iran after Tehran failed to fully accept a UN-brokered plan to provide it with fuel for a medical-research reactor.

“Iran’s technical and economic concerns in relation to the provision of fuel for this research reactor should be addressed,” Aliasghar Soltanieh, Iran’s ambassador to the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, said Thursday after delivering his country’s response to the proposed deal, the state-run Iranian Students News Agency reported. He said Iran would continue talks in Vienna “with a positive view.”

An official familiar with Iran’s response said Tehran was unwilling to accept the deal, which would delay Tehran’s ability to make a nuclear weapon.

The United States and allied countries were seeking Iranian agreement to ship out 70 percent of its low-enriched uranium to Russia in one shipment for further enrichment and conversion into fuel for a Tehran research reactor.

Sending that amount in one batch would not leave Tehran with enough material to make weapons-grade uranium, should it decide to make a warhead. Experts say Iran would need at least a year to produce enough to make up for the exported material, giving the international community a window in its efforts to persuade the country to freeze its enrichment program.

But a Western diplomat familiar with the Iran offer said Tehran was instead proposing to enrich the material domestically under supervision of the IAEA.

The Iranian pro-government daily, Javan, said Iran wanted shipments of low-enriched uranium — for conversion abroad into fuel for a Tehran research reactor — to take place in stages, not in a single consignment. It also wanted simultaneous imports of higher-enriched fuel from other countries for the same plant. 

(Bloomberg, AP, Reuters)