World News

Iran to decide on atom fuel deal in a "few days"

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran can either buy nuclear fuel for a Tehran reactor or agree to a U.N.-drafted plan and send its uranium abroad for further processing, its foreign minister said on Monday.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in Tehran September 12, 2009. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl/Files

“Iran’s decision on the provision of necessary fuel for the Tehran reactor will be announced in the next few days,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki as saying.

“There are two options on the table ... either to buy it or to give part of our fuel for further processing abroad,” Mottaki said.

On Friday, Iran said it would give an answer this week to the U.N.-drafted deal for it to cut an atomic stockpile the West fears could be used for weapons, ignoring an Oct 23 deadline and challenging the basis of the pact.

Iranian lawmakers have suggested Tehran preferred to acquire enriched uranium abroad rather than send out its own for processing into fuel for nuclear medicine, as Western powers said it tentatively agreed to do at Geneva talks on Oct. 1.

In Geneva, Iran also promised to give inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to a newly-disclosed nuclear enrichment plant near the city of Qom. The inspectors arrived in Iran early on Sunday.

Iran’s secrecy about the site, which diplomats say was detected by Western intelligence three years ago, has raised fears it is running a covert programme to develop nuclear bombs.

Iran, the world’s fifth-largest crude producer, says its nuclear programme is aimed at generating electricity.

The proposal that Iran send enriched uranium abroad is also seen as a way of reducing its stockpile below the threshold needed to produce fissile material for a bomb.

World powers regard both steps as tests of Iran’s stated intent to use enriched uranium only for civilian purposes and a basis for follow-up talks on curbing enrichment itself, which would bring Iran trade and technology rewards in return.

Reporting by Reza Derakhshi; writing by Fredrik Dahl; editing by Samia Nakhoul