Tuesday, May 18, 2010

US not satisfied with the deal Iran reached with Brazil and Turkey over its uranium

Left to right: Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim, Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Iranian foreign minister Manoucher Mottaki, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu. (Photo AFP).

The United States is not satisfied with the surprise deal about Iran's uranium that was worked out on Sunday in Tehran during talks by the presidents and foreign ministers of Iran, Brazil and Turkey. Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said in a statement that the deal did not address some of the principal issues the US has with Iran's nuclear programme, which it says could be a cover for building atomic weapons.
"The United States and international community continue to have serious concerns," he said. "Iran said today that it would continue its 20 per cent enrichment, which is a direct violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Furthermore, the joint declaration issued in Tehran is vague about Iran's willingness to meet with the P5+1 countries to address international concerns about its nuclear programme."
 The US criticism largely mirrored that of European Union governments earlier on Monday. A spokeswoman for Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, welcomed the deal but said that the bloc still had "serious concerns" about Iran's nuclear programme.

Correspondent Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times reported that Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told Iranian state television that a letter describing the deal would be sent to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency within a week. "After a final agreement is signed between Iran and the Vienna group, our fuel will be shipped to Turkey under the supervision of Iran and the IAEA," he told journalists on the sidelines of a conference of developing nations. "Then we will dispatch 1,200 kilograms [2,640 pounds] of 3.5% enriched uranium to Turkey to be exchanged for 120 kilograms [264 pounds] of 20% enriched uranium from the Vienna group."  The Vienna group consists of Russia, France, the U.S. and the IAEA.
 The deal was brokered during an 18-hour session Sunday by leaders of Brazil and Turkey during a visit to Tehran. A joint statement was signed by the foreign ministers of all three countries and witnessed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, state radio reported. Afterward, Ahmadinejad called on the West to return to talks.
"Following the signing of the nuclear fuel swap deal, it is time ... to enter talks with Iran based on honesty, justice and mutual respect," Ahmadinejad said, according to Reuters.

The deal appears to build upon an IAEA proposal last year that was endorsed by the Obama administration and Western powers.  Iran was to send around 2,640 pounds of its low-enriched uranium to Russia to be further refined and afterward to France to be converted into 20%-enriched fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor. The compromise was to serve as a way of drawing Iran's supply of nuclear material below the threshold for building a bomb and to create an atmosphere for a broader deal between the West and Iran.
That deal faltered when Iran appeared to back away, with political factions in Tehran accusing the West of trying to swindle Iran out of its stockpile. A few months ago, upping tensions with the West, Iran began producing its own 20% enriched uranium, a move that diplomats and nonproliferation experts worried could bring Iran closer to the highly enriched uranium needed to fuel an atom bomb.

But many questions remain about the new deal. Only a handful of countries, including France and Argentina, are said to have the capacity to create the specialized fuel plates for the Tehran medical reactor, built by the United States before Iran's 1979 revolution.
Turkey does not enrich uranium. Though Mehmanparast said Turkey has agreed to serve as the venue for the fuel exchange, it remains unclear whether it would serve as a guarantor for the low-enriched uranium or whether the material would be shipped to a nation with refinement capacity such as Russia, Brazil or France.

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