elbaradei soltaniehas 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani on Saturday called the UN-drafted deal to ship much of Teheran's uranium to Russia and France for further enrichment an attempt by the West to "cheat" the Islamic republic, AFP reported.
"Westerners are insisting to go in a direction that speaks of cheating and are imposing some things on us," Larijani reportedly told the Iranian IRNA news agency.
"They are saying we will give you the 20 percent [enriched uranium] fuel for the Teheran reactor only if you give us your enriched uranium. I see no link between these two things," he reportedly said.
On Friday, Iran's envoy to the UN nuclear watchdog, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said that Teheran was still studying the plan, and will formally respond to the offer next week.
Soltanieh told Iran's state Press TV that Teheran was "working and elaborating on all the details of this proposal" and that he would inform the International Atomic Energy Agency "next week about our evaluation."
The draft plan was put forth Wednesday after three days of talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna, Austria.
The plan is seen as a way to curb Iran's ability to build a nuclear weapon. The United States, Russia and France officially endorsed the deal Friday.
Soltanieh's statement indicated that Iran could still accept the plan. Teheran's acceptance would ease Western fears about Iran's potential to make a nuclear weapon.
In Vienna, the IAEA said on Friday that Iran told the agency's chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, it is "considering the proposal in depth and in a favorable light, but needs until the middle of next week to provide a response."
However, Soltanieh's comments came just hours after Iran's state TV quoted an unnamed source close to the Iranian nuclear negotiating team as saying Iran wants to buy nuclear fuel it needs for a research reactor, rather than accept the UN proposed plan.
The official said Teheran has its own proposal on purchasing nuclear fuel and would wait for a response from the world powers.
While the TV report was not an outright rejection, it raised concerns since Iran has often used counterproposals as a way to draw out nuclear negotiations with the West.
On Thursday, Iran's deputy speaker of the parliament, Mohammad Reza Bahonar, dismissed the UN plan, saying Iran cannot accept US demands to ship its low enriched uranium abroad.
The talks in Vienna followed a similar meeting at the beginning of October in Geneva that included the highest-level bilateral contact between the US and Iran in years. ElBaradei said after the Vienna talks ended that he hoped Iran and its three interlocutors - the US, Russia and France - would approve the plan by Friday.
The country is currently enriching uranium to a 3.5 percent level for a nuclear power plant it is planning to build in southwestern Iran. Iranian officials have said it is more economical to purchase the more highly-enriched uranium needed for the Teheran reactor than produce it domestically.
The Vienna-brokered plan would have required Iran to send 1.2 tons (1,100 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium - around 70 percent of its stockpile - to Russia in one batch by the end of the year, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said Thursday.
After further enrichment in Russia, France would have converted the uranium into fuel rods that would be returned to Iran for use in the Teheran reactor, he said.
Iran agreeing to ship most of its enriched uranium abroad would significantly ease fears about Teheran's nuclear program, since 0.98 tons (1,000 kilograms) is the commonly accepted amount of low-enriched uranium needed to produce weapons-grade uranium for a single nuclear bomb.
Based on the present Iranian stockpile, the US has estimated that Tehran could produce a nuclear weapon between 2010 and 2015, an assessment that broadly matches those from Israel and other nations.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak expressed Israel's dissatisfaction with the deal on Thursday night, saying that there was a need to halt all uranium enrichment on Iranian soil.
"This agreement, if it is signed, will set Iran's accumulation of enriched material back by about a year," Barak said during a speech at President Shimon Peres's 'Facing Tomorrow' Presidential Conference at the Jerusalem International Convention Center.
"However, if they don't stop enrichment, then the only result will be that Iran has gained the legitimacy to enrich uranium on its soil for civilian purposes, in clear opposition to the interlocutors' and our understanding that their true plan is to attain [military] nuclear capability," he said.
"So, I repeat, what is required is a halt to enrichment in Iran, not just an export of the enriched material to build fuel rods," the defense minister said.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni echoed Barak, saying that Israel was troubled by the recent Iranian nuclear agreement.
She noted that "the world understands that we cannot permit a nuclear Iran, however to my regret, there is a gap between the understanding of the threat and action on the ground.
"Israel needs to be worried by what we are witnessing today and the reports of the agreement. We suspect that this is another attempt by Iran to buy time. Israel must rally the world as this is not solely Israel's problem."
Livni made the comments Friday when speaking at the annual meeting of the farmers' union.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report