Iran has issued a counter-proposal to the draft presented by Mohammad ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that would have eliminated the possibility of Tehran diverting its low-enriched uranium stockpile for making atomic weapons.

Without revealing details of its own proposal over state-television, an unnamed Iranian official said: “Now we are awaiting a positive and constructive response on Iran’s proposal from the other party on providing nuclear fuel for Tehran’s reactor. The other party is expected to avoid past mistakes in violating agreements ... and to gain Iran’s trust,” he observed.

The source added: “The Islamic Republic of Iran has proposed clearly to buy the fuel required for Tehran nuclear reactor and wait for an answer.”

On Wednesday, Mr. ElBaradei had presented a draft agreement to Iran, United States, France and Russia, which had participated in three days nuclear talks in Vienna. All the participants were expected to formally endorse his proposals on Friday. The draft apparently called for the transfer of around 75 per cent of Iran’s low enriched uranium stockpile to Russia, where it would be enriched to a higher 19-20 per cent level. Russia, in turn would subcontract the material for fuel fabrication to France, after which, it would be returned to Iran for use in a Tehran reactor producing medical use isotopes. The U.S., Russia and France have already approved the IAEA draft.

On Wednesday night, Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh had told the Arabic language Al Alam television that the proposed deal with the West will test the participating countries’ commitment to peaceful nuclear work. In an interview to CNN, he added that Iran had “in principle” accepted the offer, said Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency.

Analysts point out that it is possible that Iran may be disinclined to send its assigned stockpile for further enrichment in one go, preferring instead, the staggered transfer of the material. These transfers could be linked to Iran’s broader security agenda such as the establishment of a regional nuclear free zone — a move that would draw Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons arsenal into the ambit of discussions.

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