Iran has said it is ready for a phased exchange of its low-enriched uranium stockpile with nuclear fuel rods for its Tehran research reactor engaged in producing medical isotopes.

Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki said during a security conference in Manama Iran was ready for an initial swap of 400 kg of its domestically-produced LEU stockpile for fuel.

He proposed the island of Kish, which belongs to Iran, for the exchange. He said Tehran was ready to eventually swap 1,200 kg of its enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods, as proposed in late October by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“We are prepared to take 400 kg of 3.5 per cent enriched uranium to the Island of Kish and exchange it with an amount equivalent to 20 per cent of the original batch,” said Mr. Mottaki.

He said the swap would begin “right away” if the P5+1, the U.S., Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany, agree to this offer.

Earlier in an interview with The Hindu during his visit to New Delhi, Mr. Mottaki had said Iran was ready for swapping enriched uranium that it produced for fuel, provided the exchange was conducted on its own soil.

In October after talks in Vienna with the U.S., Russia and France, the IAEA had proposed that the bulk of the Iranian LEU stocks be sent to Russia, where further enrichment would be carried out to a 19-20 per cent level. The material would then be sent to France for fuel fabrication, to be returned for use in the Tehran reactor.

Mr. Mottaki, to a question at a press conference, said Iran did not rule out the participation of regional players in nuclear negotiations, which it had earlier held in Geneva with the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany. Asked whether Saudi Arabia or Turkey should join the talks, he said: “There is no limit to the members of 5+1 [six powers]. We believe other countries from the region could participate in the talks.” His comments came after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week during an interview broadcast on Bloomberg television that Ankara could play “a very important role between Iran and countries of the world”.

Mr. Mottaki said Iran had set a target of building 15 nuclear reactors for generating electricity, so that it could export most of its oil. “From what we have found, we need at least 15 power plants to generate the required amount of 20,000 mega watts of electricity for the next two decades,” he said.

On Friday, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates had said Iran could be subjected to a qualitatively higher level of sanctions on account of its nuclear programme. Asked to comment on the latest U.S. position on sanctions, Mr. Mottaki said it “would be better not to experience that again”.

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