Iran could enrich uranium in Switzerland

Ahmadinejad: Teheran will discuss enrichment in neutral country; Swiss to pursue talks with Iran.

Saud Al Faisal 224 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Saud Al Faisal 224 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday told Dow Jones Newswires he will consult with other Arab nations on a plan to enrich uranium outside the region in a neutral country such as Switzerland. "We will be talking with our (Arab) friends," he said in exclusive comments to Dow Jones Newswires on the sidelines of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' heads of state summit in Saudi Arabia. Under a proposal put to Teheran by the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, a multinational consortium established by the GCC would provide enriched uranium to power plants in Iran, the Middle East Economic Digest reported earlier this month, citing Saudi Arabia's Foreign Affairs Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal. The facility would produce nuclear fuel that the consortium would supply to Iran and other Middle East states looking to build their own nuclear power programs. "We believe it should be in a neutral country - Switzerland, for instance," al-Faisal was quoted as saying. The plan would allow Iran to develop its nuclear energy program while at the same time removing fears it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, Switzerland's president has confirmed her country's role in seeking direct negotiations between Iran and the US President Micheline Calmy-Rey told the weekly newspaper NZZ am Sonntag that Switzerland is seeking to facilitate direct talks, saying that the Alpine nation's neutrality puts it in a key position to mediate the standoff over Teheran's nuclear program. "It is a fact that the ... big powers have so far been unable to prevent Iran from pursuing uranium enrichment," she said in an interview published Sunday, her first public comments about Switzerland's role. Calmy-Rey, who held informal discussions in February with Ali Larijani, then Iran's top nuclear negotiator, has said Switzerland rejects the proliferation of nuclear technology but recognizes the right to use the technology for peaceful purposes. She did not elaborate on her government's stance on Iran's nuclear program Sunday and declined to give further details on its efforts to bring both sides to the table. But she said Switzerland was pursuing direct negotiations and diplomatic solutions, and warned against an escalation of tensions. "It is questionable whether Iran will alter its nuclear program under coercion," Calmy-Rey told the newspaper. Johann Aeschlimann, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said Sunday that "Switzerland is interested in a negotiated solution of the Iran nuclear issue and is engaged toward a reconciliation of the differences between Iran and the international community." Switzerland has represented US interests in Iran since Washington pulled out of the country in 1979.