x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Iran may enrich uranium abroad

Iran says it could deliver abroad some of its low-enriched uranium to be upgraded or buy the fuel directly.

Iran has said it could deliver abroad some of its low-enriched uranium to be upgraded or buy the fuel directly, as a UN team was due to carry out further checks on a newly-revealed atomic plant. Foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran was mulling the UN-brokered deal which envisages shipping out Tehran's low-enriched uranium (LEU) abroad to be converted into nuclear fuel and would announce a decision within days.

"For the supply of (nuclear) fuel, we may buy it like in the past or we may deliver a part of our (low-enriched uranium) fuel that we don't need now," Mr Mottaki told the official IRNA news agency. "Both options are on the table." Mr Mottaki is the most senior official to talk about buying the fuel directly since the UN atomic watchdog brokered a deal in Vienna which suggests shipping out Tehran's LEU abroad to be converted into fuel.

The UN-brokered deal was suggested first by world powers through the UN atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEAR), Mr Mottaki said. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also suggested this arrangement a day before October 1 high-profile talks in Geneva between six world powers and Tehran about western concerns over Iran's nuclear programme. US-backed western powers back the UN-brokered deal and are keen that Iran's LEU be taken out as they suspect Tehran would process it further on its own to higher purity levels and use it to make atomic weapons. Tehran denied the charge.

France has said the deal aims to transport 1,200kg of Iran's LEU to Moscow to be converted into fuel. Iran is estimated to have 1,500kg of LEU at its uranium enrichment plant in the central city of Natanz. But the UN-led offer has met with tough opposition from top Tehran officials who suspect western powers of creating obstacles for Iran's uranium enrichment drive, which they ultimately want suspended.

Enrichment of uranium is the most controversial aspect of Tehran's nuclear programme as enriched uranium can be used for generating electricity ? as Tehran claims it is doing ? or to make the fissile core of an atom bomb. "Making a decision to choose which option is on the agenda of the Islamic republic and in the next few days the decision will be announced," Mr Mottaki said, adding that Tehran was still "examining" the UN-led deal.