News / Middle East

Iran: Uranium Enrichment Swap Possible

Mottaki says Tehran not averse to exchanging low-enriched uranium for high-grade fuel to be used in a medical reactor

Lisa Schlein

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki insists his country is only interested in nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.  And, he says Tehran does not rule out a uranium enrichment swap with western powers.  Mottaki spoke to journalists in Geneva after addressing the UN Human Rights Council.

He says his country only wants to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes and that Tehran is not averse to exchanging some of its low-enriched uranium for higher-grade fuel that can be used in a reactor producing medical isotopes.

In fact, he notes the Americans established a nuclear reactor in Iran for producing medicines 50 years ago.  He says Iran is now using this same reactor to provide medicines for 850,000 patients.

He says Tehran has cooperated in working with the western powers on possibly handing over 3.5 percent low-enriched uranium in return for 20 percent of a higher-grade enriched uranium to be used in its reactor.  He speaks through an interpreter.

"We agreed on the swap of the low-enriched uranium [for] the 20 percent enriched uranium.  Because of that, we began and still are running and holding negotiations and talks with different parties.  And, if we have some points regarding the form of the swap and agreed on the form of the swap, the issue of swap is possible to be carried out," Mottaki said.

Iran and six western powers first discussed a deal to swap uranium last year.  The West saw such a deal as a way to ensure Tehran did not enrich uranium, which could be used to make nuclear weapons.

Soon after, Iran backtracked on the deal.  The United States is threatening to push for United Nations sanctions against the country unless Tehran relents.

Foreign Minister Mottaki says the agreement could be finalized now.  But, he notes the fulfillment and realization of the swap needs time because 20 percent enrichment is a long process.

He says Iran has always cooperated with the IAEA and will continue to do so.  He says there is no proof or reason to see what he calls diversion of Iran's peaceful nuclear activities.  He says there are no documents to dispute that.

The West continues to question Iran's nuclear ambitions. The U.N. nuclear agency's new chief, Yukiya Amano, said on Monday that it is impossible to verify whether Iran's nuclear program is peaceful because Tehran is not cooperating with the agency.

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