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France, Russia and US Deny New Nuke Deal Presented to Iran

Iran's nuclear energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi says France, Russia and the United States have presented a new proposal to Tehran involving the exchange of its stockpile of low grade uranium. But U.S., Russian and French officials are denying a new offer has been presented.

Iran's Atomic Energy Agency Chief Ali Akbar Salehi told Iran's al-Alam TV that Tehran has received a new offer from the West for the exchange of most of its low-grade uranium stockpile for more highly enriched uranium.

Salehi was also quoted by Iran's official Fars News Agency as saying Tehran was "in the process of considering," the "new offer", which he said was made by France, Russia and the United States. He says the alleged offer was a reaction to Iran's decision, last week, to produce its own 20-percent grade uranium.

U.S. French and Russian officials are denying a new proposal has been made to Tehran.

Several analysts say Salehi's remarks about a new proposal may be aimed at showing Iranians their government's strategy is paying off. Iran missed an international deadline to accept a nuclear deal at the end of last month and has been sending contradictory statements about the issue for weeks.

The editor of Jane's Islamic Affairs Analyst, Alex Vatanka, pointed out it is often difficult to discern what is happening in Iran, due to contradictory statements from various officials.

"You listen to the statements coming from Tehran and one of the first questions you say to yourself is, where is the consistency in all this, because you do get, very often, contradictory messages coming from the president's office, the Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei], or people associated with the Supreme Leader, the Atomic Energy Organization, or even the Foreign Minister Manouchehr Muttaqi," said Alex Vatanka.

Vatanka thinks that there several poles of power inside Iran, and that it is probably President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and his allies, including nuclear energy chief Salehi - who is also a vice president, that are more eager to reach a deal with the West:

"Ahmedinejad has shown himself to be far more inclined to experiment in terms of the restoration of relations with America, and if it means 'let's give something up on the nuclear front' for the sake of the broader picture in terms of the détente process with the U.S., Ahmedinejad is certainly much more inclined to go down that path than [Supreme Leader Ayatollah] Khamenei is," he said.

Vatanka does not think Iran is stringing out negotiations with the West merely to buy time and make a sudden, surprise announcement that Tehran has nuclear weapons:

"There is definitely an issue here, where Iran is trying for geopolitical reasons to hang on to these negotiations to strengthen its position as a leading player to stand up to international pressure," said Vatanka. "I do not think they are so consistent and systematic to have this go on year after year, just with the objective of playing for time until they get to the crucial stage of revealing to the world the atomic bomb."

Iran's independent Etalaat newspaper wrote several weeks ago that Iran is in dire need of more civilian nuclear power plants, and countries like France, Russia and the United States should "help us to build them."

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davatoglu is due to arrive in Iran, late Monday, "to discuss nuclear negotiations," according to the Turkish foreign ministry. Turkey has been acting as an unofficial mediator between Tehran and the West.