WikiLeaks: Iranian hard-liners blocked nuclear deal

Internal opponents viewed Ahmadinejad's fuel swap deal as "virtual defeat," leaked US cable reveals.

January 4, 2011 17:00
2 minute read.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Ahmadinejad wants YOU 311 AP. (photo credit: AP)


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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sought some kind of nuclear fuel swap deal more than a year ago, but faced internal pressures from hard-liners who viewed it as a "virtual defeat," according to US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.

The report, available on the WikiLeaks website Tuesday, also suggested Iran trusted the United States more than ally Russia to follow through with the UN-backed proposal: providing reactor-ready fuel in exchange for Iran giving up control of its low-enriched uranium stockpile.

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The cable was released as Teheran on Tuesday confirmed it has invited representatives of world powers to tour its nuclear sites.

The assessment was given to a top US envoy by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, whose nation has a growing friendship with Teheran and is scheduled to host the next round of nuclear talks later this month between Iran and six world powers, including the United States.

The fuel swap proposal is a centerpiece of efforts for greater international controls on Iran's nuclear program, which the West and others fear could lead to development of atomic weapons.

The UN plan in 2009 called for Iran to ship its low-enriched uranium out of the country and receive nuclear fuel ready for use. Iran balked at the proposal and outlined alternative fuel swaps involving allies Brazil and Turkey. But the six nations — the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany — said the offers fell short of their demands.

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In late 2009, Davutoglu told visiting Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon that Iran's government was willing to work out some kind of fuel swap arrangement, but Ahmadinejad was facing "huge pressures" at home, according to the secret memo.

Davutoglu was quoted as saying that the proposal deal was "interpreted by some circles in Iran as a virtual defeat" by Western pressures.

The cable said Turkish officials had asked Ahmadinejad "if the core of the issue is psychological rather than substance."

"Ahmadinejad had said 'yes,' that the Iranians agree to the proposal but need to manage the public perception," the message said, adding that Turkish officials consider Ahmadinejad as "more flexible than others who are inside the Iranian government."

It also noted that it appears the Iranians have "more trust" in the US envoys than British negotiators and "the Iranians would also prefer to get fuel from the US rather than the Russians."

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