Iran has announced its readiness to send abroad the bulk of its low-enriched uranium stocks in return for atomic fuel for its Tehran research reactor.
The announcement by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which appears in line with an earlier proposal made by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), coincided with a show of technological prowess by Tehran.
On Tuesday, Iran launched into space its satellite carrier Kavoshgar 3. On board were living organisms — a rat, two turtles and worms, state-run broadcaster Press TV reported. The Iranian Aerospace Organisation (IAO) said live video transmission and a mini-environmental lab will enable further studies on the biological capsule.
The Kavoshgar 3 (Explorer) rocket also carried an experimental capsule that was equipped to send telemetric data, live pictures and flight and environmental analysis data. Tuesday’s launch followed two earlier test firing into space in February and November 2008 of Kavoshgar 1 and 2 rockets.
The launch followed a recent announcement by American officials that Washington had decided to deploy land based antimissile systems in four Gulf countries and on ships located near the Iranian coast, to counter possible Iranian missile attacks. Analysts point out that Iran has been regularly demonstrating its advances in military and civilian space applications. In December, it had fired the solid fuelled Sejil-2 missile that could draw Israel and parts of Europe within its range.
Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi said on Wednesday the space programme was “peaceful”, but warned that Tehran would “not tolerate any un-peaceful use [of space] by any country,” the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr. Ahmadinejad explained that Iran would not suffer a loss if domestically produced stocks of lightly enriched uranium were sent abroad, in exchange for fuel rods for the Tehran reactor engaged in producing medical isotopes. “We have no problem sending our enriched uranium abroad,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said on state television.
“We say: we will give you our 3.5 per cent enriched uranium and will get the fuel. It may take 4 to 5 months until we get the fuel,” he said.
Earlier, Iran had insisted that a swap involving its domestically produced uranium and uranium fuel could take place only on its soil. Besides, it would not exchange the bulk of its uranium in one go, preferring instead the swap to take place in stages.
Last week, the IAEA said a deal on uranium enrichment was still within grasp. In its initial response to Mr. Ahmadinejad’s call, a White House official was quoted as saying the U.S. would “look forward” to an Iranian communication with the IAEA, in case Mr. Ahmadinejad’s statement represented an “updated Iranian position”.
Observers say in case Iran follows up its stated intent with practical measures, it would further dampen the prospects of imposing fresh international sanctions against Tehran.