Iran signals readiness to cooperate with IAEA

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to deliver a qualified "yes" in response to proposals drawn up by the UN-backed IAEA on nuclear cooperation.


The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), on Thursday said it had received an "initial" response from Iran to a UN-brokered plan to supply nuclear fuel to a research reactor in Tehran.

“(IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei has received an initial response from the Iranian authorities to his proposal to use Iran's low-enriched uranium for manufacturing fuel for the continued operation of the Tehran Research Reactor, which is devoted mainly to producing radioisotopes for medical purposes," the watchdog said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s announced that “conditions are ready” for a nuclear deal with the West, in words that contrasted starkly with his previous hard-line stance. His words seem to indicate that Iran will deliver a qualified “yes” in response to proposals drawn up by the IAEA on nuclear cooperation.

"We welcome fuel exchange, nuclear cooperation, building of power plants and reactors, and we are ready to cooperate," the president said in a speech in Iran's second city of Mashhad broadcast live on state television Thursday.

He said the provision of fuel for a Tehran research reactor was an opportunity for Iran to evaluate the "honesty" of world powers and the U.N. nuclear agency watchdog, “[The West] has previously talked of halting and suspending everything, but now they are talking about fuel exchange, nuclear cooperation, building nuclear power plants and reactors. They have moved from confrontation to cooperation”, declared Ahmadinejad.

Analysis: "Ahmadinejad wants to depict this shift as a victory rather than a retreat"

“This declaration is intended to take the sting out of US-Iran relations. Ahmadinejad’s tone is much more conciliatory” explains FRANCE 24’s international affairs editor Robert Parsons. “There’s no question that it looks like a step in the right direction, although there are still a great many ‘ifs’”, he added.

What is Teheran’s agenda?

Iran is shortly expected to present its formal response to a nuclear fuel deal which proposes that Iran ship 75% of its known stock of 1,5 tonnes of enriched uranium abroad, which would be returned in the form of processed fuel bars for use in an Iranian research reactor. Iranian media say the Islamic Republic will accept the framework of the deal, but demand changes to it.

One of the Iran’s expected amendments would involve sending its enriched uranium abroad in several, carefully spaced out stages, which may be problematic for western negotiators. “Some nuclear specialists fear that if Iran exports its enriched uranium little by little, it gives them time to rebuild a stock large enough to use for military purposes”, Le Figaro’s Middle East Correspondent Delphine Minoui told FRANCE 24.

“It will be interesting to see how western powers respond to Iran’s new tone and proposed amendments”, LA Times Middle East Correspondent Borzou Daraghi told FRANCE 24. Iran’s apparent new openness “may in fact be aiming to create divisions between Russia, China and other Security Council members in order to pursue its own agenda – which has been Iran’s strategy all along”, he added.

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