U.S., Russia, France Notify IAEA of Concerns Over Iran Nuclear Fuel Deal

Powers: Plan does not address core doubts over Tehran's nuclear program, which is likely aimed at developing atomic weapons.

Iran nuclear plant in Bushehr, AP

The United States, Russia and France and the United States Big powers have notified the UN nuclear watchdog of their concerns about a proposal for Iran to send 1.2 tons of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey in return for reactor fuel, the IAEA and diplomats said on Wednesday.

The powers handed a response to International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano, they said. It was then sent to Iran's IAEA envoy before a pending UN Security Council vote on new sanctions against Tehran.

Diplomats said the three countries listed concerns about the plan brokered last month by Brazil and Turkey, suggesting the response was not an outright rejection of a possible swap under which Iran would get fuel to run a medical reactor.

 Western powers have said the new plan, which resurrected a similar, eight-month-old IAEA-brokered offer, did not address core doubts about Iran's nuclear program, which they believe is aimed at developing atomic weapons. Iran denies this.

The main Western worries include the growth of Iran's low-enriched uranium stockpile since the original draft deal and its decision to escalate enrichment to a higher threshold in February. This sparked concern because it took the material closer to the level of purity suitable for a nuclear bomb.

In a statement on its website, the IAEA did not reveal details of the response from Washington, Moscow and Paris, but said it was entitled "Concerns about the Joint Declaration conveyed by Iran to the IAEA," referring to the fuel proposal.

 "I will continue to use my good offices to follow up on this new development with the concerned governments," Amano said in the statement, without elaborating.

The United States has said Tehran's decision to back the Brazil-Turkey offer was a ploy to avoid new sanctions on Iran, the world's fifth-largest crude exporter. Diplomats said Iran's proposal lacked practical details needed to carry it out.

 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that the fuel swap agreement with Turkey and Brazil was an opportunity that would not be repeated