Iran has offered to negotiate a 20 per cent cap on uranium enrichment if it is assured of a regular supply of nuclear fuel for its medical reactor that manufactures isotopes to treat cancer.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Ramin Mehmanparast said during the course of a conference in Kazakhstan that if “a guarantee is provided to supply the 20 per cent (enriched) fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, our officials are ready to enter talks about 20 per cent enrichment," Iran’s Press TV reported.

Supplementing Mr. Mehmanparast’s remarks, Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi said that Iran would not give up enrichment, but the level of enrichment could be kept down. "If our right to enrichment is recognised, we are prepared to offer an exchange. We would voluntarily limit the extent of our enrichment programme, but in return we would need a guaranteed supply of the relevant fuels from abroad," Mr. Salehi told German newsmagazine Der Spiegel earlier in the week.

The Iranian offer still falls short of the western demand that Iran should shut down its Fordo enrichment facility near Qom, and shift abroad the entire stockpile of uranium enriched to a 20 per cent level.

The West and Israel apparently fear that so long as Iran retains enriched uranium, there is always a danger that it can enrich it further beyond 90 per cent-the threshold that would enable Tehran to manufacture a bomb. Iran has argued that these fears are unfounded as its entire nuclear infrastructure and material stockpiles are being kept under the surveillance of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Besides, the National Intelligence Estimates of the United States have repeatedly said that there is no evidence since 2003 that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons programme.

Analysts point out that the Iranian offer reported by Press TV may have a larger context. Tehran Times is quoting a report that appeared in The Guardian, which stated that the six major powers—the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany—will float a “reformulated” proposal that could help resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme. The new offer would be made after the U.S. presidential election that is scheduled on November 6. Iran and the six global powers had last met in Moscow on June 18-19. The report goes on to say that the new proposal will offer limited relief from existing sanctions and other incentives so that Iran is encouraged to limit the level of enrichment. The Guardian quoted a European official as saying: “We recognise that the Iranians need something more with which they can sell a deal at home, and we will expect real change on the other side. It is about getting the sequencing right. That is what this next round will be about.”

Despite hopeful signs of a fresh beginning, the Iranian establishment at the highest level is sceptical about a breakthrough. In a public address in the North Khorasan province, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that the West was not really concerned about the nuclear issue, but Iran’s resistance against western global dominance. “They pretend that the sanctions will be lifted if the Iranian nation gives up nuclear energy. They lie. They make decisions out of grudge and aversion [toward Iran] and impose irrational sanctions,” he observed.

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