Barack Obama

Obama: hard for Iran to make quick decisions

President Barack Obama answers questions during an interview with Reuters in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, November 9, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An unsettled political situation in Iran may be complicating efforts to seal a nuclear fuel deal between Tehran and major world powers, President Barack Obama said on Monday.

Obama told Reuters in an interview that the United States had made more progress toward global nuclear non-proliferation in the last several months than in the past several years.

“But it is going to take time, and part of the challenge that we face is that neither North Korea nor Iran seem to be settled enough politically to make quick decisions on these issues,” he said at the White House.

Obama said the United States, along with Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France, had made a “fair” offer to Iran that would allow it to have a legitimate civilian nuclear program while allaying suspicions that it was seeking to build atomic weapons. Iran maintains its nuclear program is for purely civilian purposes.

The proposal by the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency calls for Iran to transfer about 75 percent of its known 1.5 metric tons of low-enriched uranium to Russia for further enrichment by the end of this year, then to France for conversion into fuel plates for a Tehran reactor that produces radio isotopes for cancer treatment.

In talks with six world powers in Geneva on October 1, Iran agreed in principle to the draft deal.

But the deal has since stalled over details and goals and Iranian suspicions that any nuclear fuel sent abroad will not be returned to them.

“Although so far we have not seen the kind of positive response we want from Iran, we are as well positioned as we’ve ever been to align the international community behind that agenda,” Obama said.

Writing by Ross Colvin, Editing by Frances Kerry