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November 24, 2009

Iran Prepared to Exchange Uranium on its Soil

AP reports:

“Iran said Tuesday it was ready to exchange its low enriched uranium with a higher enriched material, but only on its own soil, to guarantee the West follows through with promises to give the fuel”

This position is being taken as Iran’s  “official” response to the IAEA-brokered nuclear proposal born of talks among p-5+1 countries in October.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Iran had sent its response on the proposal to the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, saying it wants a simultaneous exchange on Iranian soil.
“Iran’s answer is given. I think the other side has received it,” said Mehmanparast. “The creation of a 100 percent guarantee for delivery of the fuel is important for Iran.”
Another Iranian official, Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s atomic energy agency, confirmed the details, saying that in Iran’s view such an exchange was an “objective guarantee.”

Details on the text of the response are forthcoming.
While the response is not quite what the p-5+1 had hoped to get, this development still marks progress with Iran. The deal helps by putting time back on the nuclear clock. The more proliferation-resistant fuel rods Iran would receive in exchange for giving up its raw stockpile of LEU would lengthen the time Iran would need to develop a nuclear weapons.
Now…before any of us get ahead of ourselves, we should caution: if Iran decides in the coming days to alter its response, waffle back and forth, or vacillate in any way–such as requesting the exchange be made over multiple installments–the West would be absolutely correct to excoriate Iran for going back on its word.  It’s bad enough that this entire process–which was intended to build confidence between the two sides–has done nothing of the sort.  Now is not the time to end diplomatic engagement with Iran when it appears that some compromise deal may actually be struck.  After all, such a deal would form the basis for future cooperation and actual trust-building.
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It was also reported today that the p-5+1 have prepared a resolution critical of Iran’s nuclear defiance for the next IAEA board meeting, calling for more openness about is nuclear activities particularly in light of the revelation of the Fardo facility near Qom. Notably, Russia and China, who have been resistant in the past to confrontational positions on Iran, stifling calls for more sanctions, join in the criticism. Iran’s response today might give pause to delay those considering moving the resolution, in favor of hammering out a more concrete deal.

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