Iran to Security Council: Let's talk

In new push for diplomacy, Teheran requests dialogue on nuclear fuel.

April 19, 2010 16:34
2 minute read.
Former Iranian foreign minister Manoucher Mottaki.

Mottaki has a fit 311 187. (photo credit: AP)

TEHERAN, Iran — Iran's foreign minister said Monday that Teheran wants to discuss a nuclear fuel deal with UN Security Council members, in an apparent new push by Iran to revive talks with the international community.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was quoted by state radio as saying that Iranian delegations would "visit China, Russia, Lebanon and Uganda within the next 10 days to pursue talks."

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Mottaki said Iran wants direct talks with all Council members except one, with which it will pursue indirect talks. He likely meant United States since Teheran and Washington don't have diplomatic relations.

The talks halted after Iran last year rejected a UN-backed plan that offered nuclear fuel rods in exchange for Iran's stock of lower-level enriched uranium — a swap would have curbed Teheran's capacity to make a nuclear bomb.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called for "crippling sanctions" against Iran to prevent it from developing a nuclear weapons capability.

In an interview broadcast Monday on ABC's "Good Morning America," Netanyahu said he worries that the international community isn't acting aggressively enough to thwart Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Netanyahu said the possibility Iran could develop a nuclear weapons program represents "the biggest issue facing our times."

He called for denying refined petroleum imports to Iran and said that if the member nations of the Security Council cannot agree on such a tough move, there is a "coalition of the willing" among other countries that also are worried about Iran.

The West fears Iran's uranium enrichment masks ambitions for making nuclear weapons since high enriched uranium is weapons-grade material. Tehran denies the charge and says its program is geared toward peaceful purposes, such as electricity production.

Under the UN proposal, Iran was to send 2,420 pounds (1,100 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium abroad, where it would be further enriched to 20 percent and converted into fuel rods, which would then be returned to Iran.

Teheran needs the fuel rods to power a research reactor in the Iranian capital that makes nuclear isotopes needed for medical purposes. Sending its own low-enriched uranium abroad would leave Iran with insufficient stocks to further purify to weapons-grade level. Once converted into rods, uranium can no longer be used for making weapons.

So far, three sets of UN sanctions have failed to pressure Iran to stop its own uranium enrichment work.

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