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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Iran ready to swap enriched uranium abroad: FM spokesman

by Staff Writers  |  Tehran (AFP) Dec 29, 2009

Iran is ready to swap abroad its low-enriched uranium for nuclear fuel, the foreign ministry's spokesman said on Tuesday, insisting that the exchange should happen in several stages.

Iran is ready for "fuel swap in several stages and has said that this can be an opportunity for the two sides" to build confidence, Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters.

"If this principle is accepted by the other party, we can discuss other details, mainly the location of this exchange. Some have named Japan, Brazil, Turkey or even (Iran's) Kish Island. All this can be discussed."

The spokesman did not elaborate further.

Less than a week ago, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran is open to exchanging uranium on Turkish soil.

"We are not opposed to carry out the exchange of 400 kilos of uranium with 3.5 purity on Turkish soil or any other soil. But the cooperation should be both sides," Mottaki was quoted as saying.

Iran proposed in mid-December to exchange 400 kilos of uranium on its Kish island in the Gulf, Mottaki was quoted by the Fars news agency as saying.

But the United States bluntly dismissed the offer.

The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), had already ruled out such a swap taking place on Iranian soil.

Tehran is already under three sets of UN Security Council sanctions for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, a process the world powers fear could be used for a covert nuclear weapons programme.

Iran vehemently denies the charge, saying its nuclear ambitions are purely for producing electricity.

It has rejected an IAEA-brokered proposal that it ship out most of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium for further processing by Russia and France into fuel for a research reactor in Tehran.

The world powers have been pushing for Iran to accept the proposal that it farm out its uranium enrichment work abroad.

Under the IAEA-brokered deal, Iran would be supplied with 20-percent enriched nuclear fuel for the reactor in return for allaying Western concerns by shipping out most of its stocks of LEU.