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Iran Announces Readiness to Sell Nuclear Fuel to International Buyers - 2004-02-14

Iran's foreign minister says his country may be prepared to sell nuclear fuel to international buyers. The disclosure comes amid increased international scrutiny of Iran's nuclear capabilities.

According to Iran's state news agency, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazzi says Iran has the potential to produce nuclear fuel and is ready to offer it on the global market.

Mr. Kharazzi again denied that Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons, and pledged to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors with, "full transparency."

A political science professor and expert on Iran at Cairo University, Pakinam El-Sharkawy, says that by defending Iran's right to produce nuclear fuel, the foreign minister is sending a political message to the United States and to the Iranian people.

"The Iranians are trying to say 'yes,' but in a way by saying 'no.' Okay, we are accepting of this pressure but not to the limit that we are so weak that we are in complete obedience of American demands and so on," said Professor El-Sharkawy. "So it's kind of following a policy that preserves their dignity, especially in front of their population."

Nuclear experts have considered Iran's ability to produce nuclear fuel as limited and cite the country's efforts to obtain supplies from Russia.

Friday, the Russian minister in charge of atomic energy said Russia is near to striking an agreement to sell nuclear fuel to Iran. That deal had been held up due to international concerns about Iran's plans for using the fuel.

Earlier this week, U.N. inspectors in Iran discovered blueprints for a centrifuge that could be used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. The designs had not been disclosed to the International Atomic Energy Agency last year when Iran agreed to temporarily halt enrichment activities. It also agreed to give the agency increased access to its nuclear capabilities.

The United States has said it is unimpressed by Iran's moves to open up its nuclear program to the outside world. A key U.S. diplomat said Thursday he has no doubt Iran is continuing to develop its nuclear program. U.S. officials believe Iran is using its nuclear energy program as a cover for its efforts to build nuclear weapons.