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Iranian FM: Iran Ready for Uranium Fuel Swap

U.S. dismisses the proposal, saying it is inconsistent with draft IAEA agreement

Iran says it is ready to exchange some of its enriched uranium stockpile for nuclear fuel rods, a key demand of a United Nations-backed proposal aimed at easing global fears over Iran's nuclear program.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Saturday Iran will exchange 400 kilograms of low-grade uranium for nuclear fuel enriched to 20 percent of capacity in phases. He told a regional security conference in Bahrain that the exchange should take place on Iran's Kish island in the Persian Gulf.

The United States dismissed Mottaki's offer.

An unidentified senior U.S. official said Iran's proposal on Satruday was inconsistent with the "fair and balanced" draft agreement proposed by the International Atomic Energy Agency in consultation with the U.S., Russia, and France.

Under the IAEA-backed plan, Iran would be required to send 70 percent of its uranium to Russia and France for further enrichment.

Iranian officials previously called for a simultaneous exchange of uranium for nuclear fuel on Iranian soil, a proposal rejected by the IAEA.

In Bahrain Saturday, Mottaki also said Iran needs up to 15 more nuclear power plants to generate electricity for his country.

Uranium that is enriched at low levels can be used as fuel to produce electricity, but if refined to a much higher level it can be used to produce atomic weapons.

Iran denies Western charges it is trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian atomic energy program.

On Friday, the United States and European Union leaders warned Iran that it faces consequences unless it cooperates in proving that its nuclear program is peaceful.

Iran continues to violate the three rounds of sanctions that the Security Council has imposed for Tehran's failure to halt enrichment activities.

The Iranian foreign minister on Saturday dismissed the new threat of sanctions against Iran.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.