Iran's Ahmadinejad revives nuclear fuel swap offer

NEW YORK Thu Sep 22, 2011 5:13pm EDT

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addresses the 66th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, September 22, 2011. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addresses the 66th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, September 22, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday said Tehran would stop producing 20 percent enriched uranium if it is guaranteed fuel for a medical research reactor, seeking to revive a fuel swap deal that fell apart in 2009.

"Any time they can guarantee us this sale ... we will stop 20 percent enrichment," Ahmadinejad told a small group of reporters in New York, where he is attending a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.

"Whenever these assurances are given, we will do our part," Ahmadinejad said. "We will cease domestic enrichment at the 20 percent level. That's all. But we will continue the building of new power plants."

Tehran's refusal to halt enrichment has provoked four rounds of U.N. sanctions on the world's No. 5 oil exporting state and tighter U.S. and European Union restrictions.

Ahmadinejad touched on the issue of the sanctions, acknowledging they had hit the Iranian economy but denying they had had a devastating impact.

"At the end of the day, sanctions do have an effect, we never maintained that they had no effect whatsoever," he said. "But they do not have a decisive effect."

Western nations suspect Iran is trying to use its nuclear program to develop atomic weapons. The Islamic Republic has denied the charge, saying it wants to produce nuclear energy.

Tehran plans to build 19 new 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plants to meet growing electricity demand.


Iran recently began shifting enrichment centrifuges to an underground bunker near the holy city of Qom as part of a push to triple output capacity of higher-grade enriched uranium, a development Washington called "troubling."

Western analysts say that Iran's drive to produce 20 percent enriched material puts it closer to the 90 percent threshold suitable for atom bombs.

Iran says it needs the material to fuel a Tehran research reactor it says helps in treating hundreds of thousands of cancer patients.

A tentative pact brokered by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, in 2009 to exchange Iranian low-enriched uranium (LEU) for higher-refined fuel from abroad collapsed after Iran backed away from its terms.

The fuel swap plan was envisioned by the West as a way to reduce mistrust and help pave the way for broader talks on Tehran's nuclear program but subsequent discussions have revealed major differences standing in the way of reviving any such deal.

Western diplomats have made clear they want Iran to send out most of its low-enriched uranium -- potential weapons material if refined further -- as part of any fuel swap.

Iran has made equally clear it is not prepared to part with more LEU than it agreed to under the original plan even though its stockpile has more than doubled in the intervening period.

Analysts and diplomats believe the original deal fell victim to Iran's internal power rivalries as Ahmadinejad's rivals -- who have only grown stronger since the deal was first outlined -- raised new conditions which proved unacceptable for the West.

(Writing by Andrew Quinn; editing by Anthony Boadle)

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Comments (3)
IrateNate wrote:
I’m surprised anyone was left to hear this disgusting little man speak. But you have to admire his testicular fortitude; he offers to exchange nuclear fuel for a promise not to make bombs with it. Yeah, right. Those missiles are only for spreading peace throughout the region.

Sep 22, 2011 6:08pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
newscreenname wrote:
The little want to be dictator is trying to make news once more. These are words from the mouth of a habitual liar. He will say anything or do anything to self promote himself no matter how or who it could hurt. Just my opinion.

Sep 22, 2011 6:33pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Bramdean wrote:
In spite of the less than objective tone of this article Iran has a right to enrich uranium up to 20%. There is not a shred of evidence that it has enriched above that level. Iran is a member od NPT and all its facilities are video-monitored. Furthermore Iran, quite rightly, does not recognize the lecturing of the United States (a country that has actually used nuclear weapons on civilian populations-more than once) and the couple of other “western nations” (both stockpilers of nuclear weapons) in lecturing Iran on “nuclear temperance”, it is highly ironic, absurd and hypocritical.
Suffice it to say the accusations are entirely baseless and without merit. Iran is a sovereign state, as such categorically rejects the right of another nation to dictate its energy policies.
@iratenate, don’t misrepresent, Iran’s president has not “offered to exchange nuclear fuel for a promise not to make bombs”, you are obviously not an effective comedian, however as a vulgarian you are making impressive strides.
@newscreenname, evidently the Joseph Geobbels school of propaganda you are attending is doing marvels for you. Do you mind listing Ahmadinejad’s “lies”, I’m sure the people at Reuters would appreciate such a list for the next time Ahmadinejad visits tthe UN. Perhaps their usual hostile piece about him would not be so devoid of substance.

Sep 22, 2011 11:14pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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