x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Iran says it will accept uranium deal framework

Iran will accept the broad framework of a UN-brokered uranium deal but wants "very important changes", state television says.

TEHRAN // Iran will accept the broad framework of a UN-brokered uranium deal but wants "very important changes", state television said yesterday, adding that Tehran will offer its formal response within 48 hours. As state-owned Arabic-language television, Al Alam, said Iran would demand key changes to the deal. The Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reiterated that Tehran had the right to pursue nuclear technology.

Officials, meanwhile, continued to express conflicting views on the draft that the French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner has said amounted to "wasting of time". "Iran will accept the broad framework of the deal, but wants very important changes in it," Al Alam quoted a source close to Tehran's nuclear negotiating team as saying. Without elaborating, it said Tehran would offer its response within "48 hours".

The state-owned English language television, Press TV, reported that Tehran would not shift its entire stock of low-enriched uranium (LEU) - as hinted at by the proposed deal - indicating Tehran would demand changes to it. The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which drafted the deal, refused to comment on the reports, saying it was awaiting an official response from Tehran. The television reports come a day after the foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki, in a first official response, said Iran might ship part of its LEU abroad, but buying the fuel from a foreign supplier was still an option.

France says the deal calls for Tehran to export to Russia more than 1,200kg of its 3.5 per cent LEU for refining up to 20 per cent purity for fuelling a Tehran research reactor that makes medical isotopes. World powers back this, as they fear Iran intends to enrich its LEU to even higher levels and use it to make atomic weapons. Another plus from their perspective is that the Tehran facility is closely monitored by the IAEA. Tehran says its enrichment drive - the most controversial aspect of its nuclear project - is for peaceful purposes only.

Mr Ahmadinejad once again brought home this point, saying in a statement that "when an illicit regime [Israel] possesses nuclear arms, one cannot talk about depriving other nations of a peaceful nuclear programme". The IAEA drafted the uranium exchange deal during Vienna talks held between Iran and France, Russia and the United States earlier this month. *AFP