June 2, 2010 / 3:55 PM / 9 years ago

Iran says it wants cooperation on uranium programme

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Iran’s foreign minister urged world powers on Wednesday to cooperate with the Islamic state over its nuclear programme and said new sanctions would not persuade Tehran to abandon it.

Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki talks to the media at the European Parliament in Brussels June 1, 2010. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Speaking during a trip to Brussels to discuss Iran’s nuclear work with the European Parliament, Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran was ready to go through with a fuel-swap plan worked out by Iran, Turkey and Brazil but criticized by Western powers.

Under the plan, Iran would receive more highly enriched uranium it says it needs for medical uses, in return for lower-grade stockpiles.

But Mottaki said a recent Iranian programme to refine uranium to higher levels, which has heightened Western suspicions over Tehran’s nuclear intentions, would be extended by Tehran if it could not obtain the material elsewhere.

“We will definitely continue our production of (higher-grade) uranium,” Mottaki said during a meeting at the European Policy Center think tank in Brussels.

Commenting on criticism of the fuel-swap plan, Mottaki said Washington was unwilling to search for a diplomatic solution.

“We wanted to change from the confrontation-based approach to a cooperative approach. Now we believe there are two options,” he told reporters.

“The first one is this (Turkish-Brazilian) initiative ... a diplomatic one. The other one is ... based on confrontation.”

Mottaki met senior members of the European Parliament during his two-day visit but not EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who was not in Brussels.

A spokesman for Ashton said this month she believed efforts by Turkey and Brazil could be a step in the right direction but questions remained about the proposal.

EU member states Britain, France and Germany are part of a group of global powers negotiating with Iran that also includes the United States, Russia and China.

WORLD POWERS WORRIED

Iran says its nuclear work has peaceful purposes but world powers suspect it is preparing to build nuclear arms.

Iran started in February to enrich uranium to a level at which the metal’s more fissile isotope makes up 20 percent of the material. Ninety percent purity is needed to make bombs.

Under the Turkish-Brazilian agreement, Iran would send 1.2 tonnes of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey for safekeeping while Tehran would receive higher-grade fuel for its medical reactor.

The United States has said the plan is a last-minute effort by Tehran to deflect pressure for sanctions.

“Moving through the Security Council will kill this initiative,” Mottaki said in Brussels. “When we don’t need 20-percent uranium, we will not produce it.”

“I don’t believe sanctions will happen. There is no consensus,” he added.

While discussion on a new round of sanctions is gathering international momentum, a group of high-profile experts has said world powers should seriously consider the newly-drafted fuel swap plan, even if it is not perfect.

The experts said that while the plan failed to address key aspects of Iran’s nuclear work, it would open the door to broader diplomatic engagement.

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