Iran, Turkey and Brazil signed a deal in Tehran Monday under which Iran will ship 1,200 kilos of low enriched uranium to Turkey in return for nuclear fuel, an agreement that could undermine UN efforts to impose fresh sanctions on Iran.
REUTERS - Iran agreed with mediators Brazil and Turkey on Monday it would send some of its uranium abroad, abruptly ending its refusal to countenance such a deal just as the U.N. Security Council readied tougher sanctions.
It was not immediately clear whether Iran's apparent concessions, following months of deadlock over a U.N.-drafted fuel swap plan, would satisfy major powers which have been discussing a new round of punitive U.N. measures against Tehran.
Analysts say the agreement will allow Tehran to avert new tougher U.N. sanctions, split the major powers and help the leadership reassert its authority after months of unrest and opposition that followed the presidential election last June.
A European Commission spokesman said the agreement between leaders of Iran, Turkey and Brazil may be a step in the right direction, but details needed to be seen. Moscow and Berlin also said they wanted more information before commenting.
The U.N. nuclear agency watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Organisation, declined immediate comment. Diplomats in Vienna said it did not appear the IAEA had been informed about the details of the agreement announced in the Iranian capital.
Iran said it had agreed to transfer 1,200 kg (2,646 lb) of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey within a month in return for higher-enriched nuclear fuel for a medical research reactor.
No more than one year later, Iran will get 120 kg of 20 percent enriched uranium under an arrangement involving the IAEA, as well as the United States, France and Russia.
Iran, which says its atomic programme is purely for peaceful purposes and not to make bombs as the West suspects, had earlier insisted any such exchange must take place simultaneously and on its territory.
A mediation offer by Turkey and Brazil, both non-permanent Security Council members, had been seen as the last chance to resolve the dispute and avoid a fourth round of U.N. sanctions.
The deal enables Iran to meet Western terms without dealing directly with major powers. Erdogan, a moderate and popular Islamist leader who took a stand againt Israel over the war on Gaza in 2008, is a much more palatable figure for the Iranian establishment to deal with and sell a deal at home.
"Iran expressed its readiness to deposit its LEU within one month. On the basis of the same agreement the Vienna Group should deliver 120 kg fuel required for Tehran research reactor in no later than one year," said a joint declaration posted by Turkish news channel CNN Turk on its website.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Iran's LEU would be under IAEA supervision in Turkey. The IAEA would be notified within a week about the swap deal, he said.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on six world powers to start new negotiations with his country.
"They should welcome the major event that took place in Tehran and distance themselves from the atmosphere of pressure and sanctions to create an opportunity for interaction and cooperation with Iran," Ahmadinejad said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu hailed the deal as a "historic turning point" and said there was no need for the world to consider any further punitive measures against Iran.
"I think that declaration, in our view, eliminates whatever doubts for sanctions against Iran. There is no ground to keep trying for new sanctions... The swap agreement should be the getaway for broader discussions," Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told reporters.
There was no immediate comment from Washington, which has been leading a Western push to impose extra sanctions on Iran.
In Brussels, a spokesman for the European Union executive said: "This agreement, while being a positive step in the right direction, does not fully address the issue of Iran's nuclear programme."
The EU's high representative for foreign affairs, Catherine Ashton, stood ready to meet with the Iranian authorities to find a "full and complete" solution to the standoff, he said.
A government spokesman in Berlin said Germany wanted to find out details before assessing the deal, a line echoed in Moscow.
"We have not yet received any official information on any such agreements, therefore we cannot react to or comment on reports regarding this," a source in Russia's Foreign Ministry told Interfax news agency.
Yin Gang, a researcher on the Middle East at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think-tank in Beijing, said the fuel agreement may delay discussions on sanctions.
"But I think there will be many question marks about this plan. The plan proposes a nuclear fuel exchange. But with who? That's all unclear, and so I don't expect this will be a breakthrough that fundamentally resolves anything," he said.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Ahmadinejad clinched the agreement after talks in Tehran, Iranian state media reported.
"We want to ensure that Iran has its right to peaceful use of nuclear energy, including uranium enrichment but at the same time gives guarantees to the international community," Amorin said.
Major world powers had urged Iran to accept a months-old IAEA plan to ship 1,200 kg of its low-enriched uranium -- enough for a single bomb if purified to a high enough level -- abroad in exchange for fuel for a medical research reactor in Tehran.
The proposal, backed by the United States, Russia and France, was aimed at giving time for diplomatic talks with Iran.
Tehran agreed in principle to the deal in October but then demanded changes such as a simultaneous swap on Iranian soil, conditions other parties in the deal said were unacceptable.
Date created : 2010-05-17