* May be bid to reinvigorate moribund talks with big powers
* But Iran wants economic sanctions lifted as condition
* Western powers say much more needed for sanctions relief
By Yeganeh Torbati
DUBAI, Oct 13 Iran would negotiate on halting
higher-grade uranium enrichment if given fuel for a research
reactor, senior officials said, reviving a previous offer in a
possible attempt to show flexibility in stalled nuclear talks
with world powers.
The talks have made scant progress since resuming in April,
leading to harsher Western sanctions against Iran and increasing
talk of Israeli air strikes on its arch-adversary over concerns
Tehran is covertly seeking the means to develop nuclear weapons.
The Islamic Republic's economy is suffering from the
tightened noose of sanctions, with the rial currency losing
nearly two-thirds of its value to the dollar over the past year.
"If a guarantee is provided to supply the 20 percent
(enriched) fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, our officials
are ready to enter talks about 20 percent enrichment," Foreign
Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said at a Eurasian media
forum in Kazakhstan on Friday, according to Iran's Press TV.
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told the German
newsmagazine Der Spiegel e arlier in the week: "If our right to
enrichment is recognised, we are prepared to offer an exchange.
We would voluntarily limit the extent of our enrichment program,
but in return we would need a guaranteed supply of the relevant
fuels from abroad."
At the heart of Iran's dispute with world powers is its
insistence on the right to enrich uranium and that economic
sanctions should be lifted before it stops activities that could
lead to its achieving the capability to produce nuclear weapons.
The United States and European allies reject such
conditions. They say Iran forfeited a right to enrich by having
concealed sensitive nuclear work from U.N. inspectors and
blocking their inquiry into suspected bomb research.
They also believe that dropping sanctions first would remove
any incentive for Iran to come clean and negotiate seriously.
EU WIDENS SANCTIONS
Mehmanparast, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, spoke on the
same day the European Union provisionally approved yet wider
economic sanctions complementing U.S. plans for further
Mehmanparast said any flexibility shown by Iran should be
matched by reciprocal measures from world powers, including full
recognition of Iran's right to enrich uranium, according to
Saturday's Press TV report.
There is no sign Iran's readiness to discuss its enrichment
of uranium to a fissile concentration of 20 percent would go
anywhere near enough to satisfy the demands of the West.
World powers want Iran to stop 20 percent enrichment, shut
down the Fordow underground centrifuge plant where this work is
carried out and ship out its stockpile of this material.
Western officials say such gestures would serve to raise
confidence in Iranian intentions but more would be needed to
obtain any significant relief from sanctions.
Iran says it needs uranium enriched to a fissile purity of
20 percent for a medical research reactor in Tehran, but this
would also overcome most of the hurdles in terms of technology
and time to the 90 percent level suitable for nuclear weapons.
According to the latest International Atomic Energy Agency
watchdog report, issued in August, Iran has a stockpile of 20
percent uranium of just over 90 kilograms (200 pounds).
Traditionally experts say 200-250 kg would be required for
one nuclear device, if it is refined further to weapons grade,
but some say less would do. Iran is believed to be producing
about 15 kg per month.
A U.S.-based think tank earlier this week said Iran would
currently need at least two to four months to refine enough
uranium for one bomb but that considerably more time would be
required to assemble a deliverable nuclear weapon.