Iran says still wants to enrich uranium at home

Iran says still wants to enrich uranium at homeFriday 30 December
By Paul Hughes

TEHRAN, Dec 30 (Reuters) – Iran’s agreement to discuss Moscow’s plan to enrich uranium in Russia does not mean that Tehran has abandoned its drive to enrich uranium on its own soil, a senior Iranian official was quoted as saying on Friday.

The remarks by Javad Vaeedi, deputy of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, appeared to dash faint hopes that Russia’s proposal could resolve the Islamic state’s nuclear standoff with the West.

The proposal, which is backed by Washington and the European Union, involves the creation of a joint Iranian-Russian company to enrich uranium in Russia.

The plan has been put forward by Moscow to try to allay international concerns that Iran could manufacture highly enriched uranium on its own soil to build atomic weapons.

Iran says it wants to enrich uranium only to a low grade, suitable for use in atomic power reactors.

But Vaeedi said Iran had only agreed to study Moscow’s joint-venture proposal on the assumption that it did not affect Iran’s plans to develop a full nuclear fuel cycle, including enrichment, at home.

"Securing Iran’s rights, based on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to enrich uranium on Iran’s soil within the framework of International Atomic Energy Agency regulations would be the first assumption for assessing Russia’s proposal," the semi-official Fars news agency quoted him as saying.

Calling the Russian plan an "idea" he said: "Iran takes seriously new proposals and ideas aimed at finding a peaceful solution to its nuclear problem and can review them."

Earlier on Friday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov had talked to his Iranian counterpart Ali Larijani on Thursday to discuss the Russian proposal, Itar-Tass news agency reported.

"The telephone conversation occurred at the request of the Iranian side," the agency quoted a ministry spokesman as saying.

A spokesman declined to confirm the report when asked by Reuters. Tass quoted him as saying "discussion of these themes will continue".

An Iranian diplomat on Thursday said Ivanov, who acts as a Kremlin envoy for unofficial contacts on controversial issues, had agreed to send a delegation to Tehran led by one of his deputies to continue talks on the enrichment joint venture.

The Iranian diplomat said Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Secretary Larijani told Ivanov there were "ambiguities and problems" with the proposal that needed clarifying.

EU diplomats and arms control experts have noted that Tehran has been careful to stop short of rejecting Moscow’s plan.

Doing so could see Moscow drop its earlier opposition to EU and U.S. efforts to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions, they say.