RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday urged Iran to do more to dispel international suspicion that it is trying to build atomic weapons, saying that the Islamic Republic’s enrichment of uranium is sowing mistrust.
Speaking at an event in Rio de Janeiro, Ban also reiterated that a fuel swap deal brokered by Brazil and Turkey could help defuse tensions over Iran’s nuclear program.
But he stressed that Iran must do more to assure the world that it is only enriching uranium for peaceful purposes, as Tehran insists.
“At the heart of this crisis there appears to be a serious lack of trust and confidence in Iran,” Ban told a news conference in Rio, where he was attending the Third Forum of the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations.
“Iran has at the same time declared it will continue the enrichment process ... That has caused some serious concerns of the international community,” Ban added.
Earlier this month, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan helped negotiate a deal under which Iran would send some low-enriched uranium abroad, reviving a fuel swap plan drafted by the U.N. that aimed to keep Tehran’s nuclear activities in check.
The United States views the deal as a stalling tactic by Iran, and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council have agreed on a draft resolution to impose new sanctions on Tehran.
Ban reiterated earlier praise of the agreement, saying it could be “a positive step toward a negotiated settlement.”
Lula and Erdogan, both of whom traveled to Tehran to broker the fuel swap deal, will meet in Brasilia later on Thursday.
Russia’s support of the sanctions draft has touched off the worst diplomatic spat between Moscow and Tehran since the Cold War. On Wednesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the Kremlin of bowing to U.S. pressure, prompting Russia to criticize the Iranian leader for engaging in “political demagoguery.”
Writing by Todd Benson, editing by Alan Elsner