Iranian Ambassador to IAEA 248.88.
(photo credit: )
Iranian officials on Monday sent mixed signals on a US-brokered deal that would have Teheran ship out most of the material it would need to make a nuclear weapon, with the foreign minister saying that option still exists and a senior diplomat suggesting the opposite.
The contrasting messages appear designed to keep the international community off balance on how far Iran is ready to go in accepting the original proposal - having Teheran export 70 percent of its enriched uranium and having it returned as fuel for its research reactor.
They also appeared geared toward pushing the plan's main backers - the US, France and Russia - into further talks, something those nations oppose as a delaying tactic.
Asked about US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's comments that Western powers are getting impatient with Iran over the nuclear deal, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki replied: "Really?"
Mottaki, who spoke to reporters in Kuala Lumpur, simply replied "No," when asked if his country had rejected the plan that would commit his country to ship out most of its enriched uranium.
Instead, he said Iran has three options to procure fuel for its reactor; to buy the fuel from other countries; to enrich the uranium domestically, or to accept the UN-brokered plan.
In contrast, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's chief envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Iran wanted to purchase ready-made uranium from abroad for the research reactor.
"We want to buy the fuel from any supplier," he told The Associated Press, fending off repeated questions on whether this meant the rejection of the export plan.
Soltanieh's comments were the most concrete statement yet by a government official of what the Iranian government wanted.
But the US and its allies are unlikely to accept anything substantially less than the original plan, which aimed to delay Iran's ability of making nuclear weapons by at least a year by divesting Iran of most of its enriched uranium and returning it as research reactor fuel.
"We are waiting for Iran to accept formally the agreement," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Monday. "We are waiting for this answer. If this answer is dilatory as it seems to be, we won't accept it."
If 70 percent of Iran's uranium is exported in one shipment - or at the most two shipments in quick succession - Teheran would need about a year to produce enough uranium to again have the stockpile it needs for one weapon.
"We have considered these proposals," Mottaki said of the IAEA plan. "We have some technical and economic considerations on that. Two days ago, we passed our views and observations to the IAEA, so it is very much possible to establish a technical commission in order to review and reconsider all these issues."
Asked when the panel would meet, he said that was up to the IAEA. He refused to elaborate.
It is relatively simple to turn fuel-grade uranium into weapons-grade material.