The United States is skeptical of the nuclear fuel swap agreement announced on Monday in which Iran says it will ship enriched uranium to Turkey. President Barack Obama's spokesman says the agreement will not slow the drive for a new U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution.
The White House and State Department issued similar responses to the deal in which Tehran agrees to send about 1,200 kilograms of enriched uranium to Turkey. In return, Iran would receive medium-enriched uranium for use in a medical research reactor.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs acknowledged efforts by Turkey and Brazil, saying it would be a positive step for Iran to transfer low-enriched uranium as it agreed to do in October of last year.
But noting Iran's announcement that it will continue its 20 percent enrichment program, Gibbs said there is no change in the administration's position on Iran's nuclear program, or President Obama's determination to achieve a new U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution. "It does not change the steps that we are taking to hold Iran responsible for its obligations, including sanctions," he said.
The United States has been working with the P-5+1 group of nations - including Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China -- on a sanctions resolution. Asked about President Obama's time line for progress with Iran on the nuclear issue, and the desire he has voiced to achieve a Security Council resolution within the next few months, Gibbs said that the United States and its partners are making steady progress on a sanctions resolution.
U.S. officials are emphasizing that the nuclear swap agreement will need to be examined by the international community, specifically the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, "It remains to see, and this is what we will be working through in coming days, what does this actually represent. There are those who might characterize this as a breakthrough. I think we remain skeptical that this represents anything fundamentally new."
As for consultations on the nuclear fuel exchange, White House spokesman Gibbs said President Obama has not had any new discussions with his Russian counterpart Dmitri Medvedev or with the leaders of Turkey and Brazil. State Department spokesman Crowley told reporters said the United States would be talking with Turkey and Brazil in the coming days.
According to the IAEA, the amount of enriched uranium Iran would send to Turkey under the agreement would be a little more than half of Iran's existing stockpile.
The United States and its key allies say Iran's nuclear program is aimed at developing atomic weapons to the region. Iran's government maintains that its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful purposes only.