Sunday, November 13, 2005

Tehran Rejects Plan for Iran to Enrich Uranium in Russia

Los Angeles Times:

November 13, 2005

TEHRAN — The head of Iran's nuclear agency ruled out a proposal to enrich uranium in Russia for his country's controversial nuclear program, saying Saturday that the process must be done in Iran.

The United States and European negotiators reportedly were willing to accept enrichment in Russia to allow Iran to move ahead with its nuclear program while ensuring that it does not produce atomic bombs. Enrichment can produce material either for a bomb or for nuclear reactor fuel.

Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who also heads Iran's nuclear agency, said Tehran was open to other proposals, referring to an earlier Iranian idea that other countries participate in the enrichment process on Iranian soil as a guarantee the program is used only for peaceful purposes.

"What is important for us is that we be entrusted to carry out enrichment in Iran. As for participation by other countries in Iran's uranium enrichment program, we will consider it if there is any proposals," he said.

But, when asked whether Tehran would agree to carrying out enrichment abroad, Aghazadeh said, "Iran's nuclear fuel will be produced inside Iran."

Iran already has taken initial steps toward enriching uranium.

Aghazadeh said Wednesday that Tehran would give the outside world a 35% share in its uranium enrichment program, allowing other countries to have a role in and monitor uranium enrichment at Iran's facility in the central town of Natanz.

Aghazadeh also said that giving other nations and foreign companies such a role was the "maximum concession" Tehran could offer.

Washington says Iran is aiming to produce nuclear warheads. Tehran denies that charge, saying its program is intended solely to produce electricity and insisting that it has the right to develop the entire nuclear fuel cycle on its own.

Aghazadeh spoke after talks with Russian envoy Igor S. Ivanov. Iranian and Russian officials refused to confirm whether Ivanov presented any compromise proposal to Tehran.

Iran's state-run television quoted Ivanov as saying his visit reflected Russia's desire to help ease tensions between Iran and the Europeans over its nuclear program.

At its Nov. 24 meeting, the International Atomic Energy Agency plans to discuss whether to refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions over its nuclear program.

Last month, Iran allowed IAEA inspectors to revisit the Parchin military site, a sprawling complex about 20 miles southeast of Tehran. American officials say the site may be part of Iran's nuclear arms research program.

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