Iran FM: We're Willing to Consider Nuclear Fuel Swap

Ahamdinejad: Iran will consider deal over nuke program when U.S., Western nations stop issuing threats.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Saturday that Tehran was ready to consider a recent proposal issued by Western nations under which Iran would obtain nuclear fuel from outside sources rather than producing it itself, the official IRNA news agency reported.

"We are ready to examine proposals by the other side about the fuel swap," Mottaki told IRNA.

The United States dismissed earlier this month an offer to swap 400 kilograms of low-enriched uranium on the Iranian island of Kish for nuclear fuel enriched to 20 percent, in what would be the first phase of a deal with world powers.

Mottaki reiterated a mid-December statement that Iran did not "insist on" the Kish plan.

"The objective of that proposal was to open a way for the other side," the news agency quoted Mottaki as saying.

On Friday, the French news agency AFP quoted Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as having said that Iran would be willing to reach a deal with the West over its controversial nuclear program as soon as the U.S. and other Western nations stopped issuing threats against Iran.

"Everything is possible, 400 kilos, 800 kilos, it's nothing," for enrichment abroad, Ahmadinejad was quoted by AFP as saying in a new gesture to try to end the nuclear standoff.

"But not in a climate where they threaten us. They have to change their vocabulary, in respect and legality," Ahmadinejad said.

Six world powers have urged Iran to accept a United Nations-drafted proposal that would have Iran ship 1,200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium to Russia in one batch.

"From the outset, delivering 1,200 kilos of uranium was not a problem for us," said Ahmadinejad, "but they believe they can wave a stick to threaten us, those days are over."

U.S. President Barack Obama's administration has signaled that time is running out for the diplomatic approach to resolving the nuclear dispute with Iran. Both the U.S. and Israel have not ruled out a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities should diplomacy fail.

"They are threatening us now, with sanctions, with resolutions, pressure, it's going backwards," said Ahmadinejad.

The six world powers are expected to consult by telephone on December 22, and are considering a fourth round of UN sanctions against Tehran come January.

In his interview with AFP, Ahmadinejad repeated many times that "America and the others" - referring also to Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia - "must change [their] attitude and we will sit at the table to find an agreement."

He called for "a middle way," but warned, "If they say again that they want to take out [low-enriched uranium] to prevent Iran from making the bomb, it will be an insult.

"If we want to make a bomb we would not be afraid of the United States?but we do not want to make a bomb," Ahmadinejad said.

"Our policy is transparent. If we wanted to make a bomb we would be brave enough to say so. When we say that we are not making one, we are not. We do not believe in it [the bomb]."

Iran insists its nuclear program is solely for civilian purposes and rejects Western suspicions that it is trying to develop a bomb.Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin said earlier this week that Iran has over the last year accumulated enough materials to create a nuclear bomb and warned: "The technological clock has almost finished winding."

Yadlin said that Iran had embarked on a "measured and sophisticated strategy for a solid nuclear infrastructure, by spreading out in facilities both overt and covert, while simultaneously developing a military capability that would allow a breakthrough when it so decides."

According to Yadlin, there are three clocks now ticking with regard to Iran's contentious nuclear program - those of technology, diplomacy and of the stability of the Islamic regime. Technologically, said Yadlin, time was almost up.