Iran is ready to stop enriching uranium to 20 per cent purity if the global powers agree to export medium-enriched nuclear fuel for its Tehran-based medical reactor, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said.
Mr. Davutoglu said Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki had made the offer during trilateral talks in Istanbul on Sunday in which Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim also participated.
The three countries in May had signed the Tehran Declaration, which covered the broad contours of a nuclear swap deal. Iran, according to this agreement, had agreed to export to Turkey 1,200 kg of its domestically produced stocks of Low Enriched Uranium, purified to less than five per cent. In return, it would receive 120 kg of 20 per cent enriched fuel for its Tehran reactor that produces medical isotopes required for the treatment of cancer. The global powers led by the United States had then rejected the deal, and had swiftly gone ahead to impose a fourth round of sanctions against Tehran.
But signalling that a new round of the talks between Iran and the West was now on the horizon, Mr. Davutoglu said Tehran was ready to address one of the key concerns of the global powers — halting the 20 per cent enrichment that Iran had begun in February. The West is concerned that by undertaking 20 per cent enrichment on its own, Iran is getting closer to the development of an atomic weapon, which requires uranium purified beyond the 90 per cent level.
“Another important message given by Mottaki during his visit to Turkey was that if the Tehran [swap] deal is signed and Iran is provided with the necessary fuel for its research activities, then they will not continue enriching uranium to 20 per cent,” said Mr. Davutoglu on Wednesday during a joint news conference with visiting German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
In a reciprocal move, the Americans have also expressed their readiness to resume a nuclear dialogue with Iran.
“We hope to have the same kind of meeting coming up in the coming weeks that we had last October,” said U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. “We are interested in a process — more than one meeting.”
On October 1, Iran had held talks with the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia in Geneva where discussions took place on inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of Iran's so far undeclared Fordo nuclear facility, near Qom. Besides, the concept of a nuclear fuel swap was also on that meeting's agenda.
Later that month, the Vienna talks were held where the specifics of a nuclear swap deal for the Tehran reactor was proposed. “We obviously are fully prepared to follow up with Iran on specifics regarding our initial proposal involving the Tehran research reactor,” said Mr. Crowley.