Iran Offers Terms to Halt 20 Percent Uranium Enrichment

Turkish FM says Iran has given an assurance that it would stop enriching uranium to 20 percent purity if world powers agreed to a proposed nuclear fuel swap.

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Iran has given an assurance that it would stop enriching uranium to 20 percent purity if
world powers agreed to a proposed nuclear fuel swap, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Wednesday.

The offer, conveyed to the Turkish minister on Sunday, could bode well for an expected resumption of talks in September between Iran and six major powers on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

Iran last negotiated with the powers - the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia - in October 2009. The six fear that Iran is secretly building nuclear weapons. Tehran denies any such plans.

In February, Iran announced that it had started enriching uranium to 20 percent purity, from about 3.5 percent previously, raising concern that it might be planning to enrich uranium still further and to produce nuclear weapons grade material.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu speaking at a news conference in Istanbul on June 22, 2010.Credit: Reuters

Since June, fresh sanctions have been imposed on Iran by the United Nations, the United States and, on Monday, by the European Union, increasing the pressure on Tehran.

One of the demands made in UN Security Council resolutions is that Iran suspends uranium enrichment at all levels.

Turkey and Brazil brokered a deal in May for a nuclear fuel swap in Tehran, hoping that this would draw Iran and major powers back to the negotiating table, but the six powers were lukewarm about the plan.

Davutoglu, who met his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki and Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim on Sunday, said Iran was ready to lay to rest concern over its enrichment program if the proposed nuclear fuel swap went ahead.

"Another important message given by Mottaki during his visit to Turkey was that if the Tehran deal is signed and Iran is provided with the necessary fuel for its research activities, then they will not continue enriching uranium to 20 percent," Davutoglu told a joint news conference with visiting German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

Iran sent a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on Monday, saying it was ready to negotiate the details of exchanging 2,646 pounds of its own 3 percent enriched uranium for 265 pounds of 20 percent enriched uranium.

Building trust

Davutoglu urged that talks on this subject with the Vienna Group, comprising Russia, France, the United States and the IAEA, be opened as soon as possible.

"The disagreements should be left aside and negotiations between the Vienna Group and Iran should be started right away," he said. "As progress is made in those technical negotiations, the two sides will trust each other more."

Davutoglu said Iran had also confirmed that EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Iran's chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, could meet in early September, after the Muslim
fasting month of Ramadan.

Ashton is acting as the major powers' point person in negotiations with Iran.

NATO-member Turkey has offered to store the swapped uranium and has gone into diplomatic overdrive in an attempt to ease tensions between Western allies and its neighbor.

Germany's Westerwelle said Iran's offer to enter talks on a nuclear fuel swap without conditions was a good sign ahead of an expected resumption of talks with world powers.

"We believe that there will be a comprehensive cooperation; Iran's letter to Vienna on Monday is also an indicator that it is possible," Westerwelle said.



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