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Iran's Mousavi criticises nuclear fuel plan - website

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi has sharply criticised the outcome of Iran’s talks with world powers this month, making clear he was against a proposal to send enriched uranium abroad, a reformist website reported.

EDITORS' NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on their ability to film or take pictures in Tehran. Iranian opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi (L) meets with pro-reform cleric Mehdi Karoubi in Tehran October 12, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

The report came as Iran was expected later on Thursday to present its official position on a U.N.-drafted plan for it to ship much of its uranium stockpile abroad for further processing, meant to help ease tensions over its nuclear drive.

The draft agreement was hammered out by U.N. nuclear agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei in follow-up talks to an Oct. 1 meeting between Iran and six world powers in Geneva, where Iran also agreed to open a new enrichment site for U.N. inspections.

Senior Iranian lawmakers have cast doubt on the fuel plan, saying Tehran should import the fuel it needs for a research reactor rather than sent its stockpile out of the country.

Iranian media say Tehran will accept the framework of the proposal but also seek changes to it, a move that could unravel the plan and expose the Islamic Republic to the threat of harsher sanctions.

“The discussions in Geneva were really surprising and if the promises given (to the West) are realised then the hard work of thousands of scientists would be ruined,” Kaleme website quoted Mousavi as saying, in a clear reference to the fuel plan.

“And if we cannot keep our promises then it would prepare the ground for harder sanctions against the country,” he said in a meeting with pro-reform cleric Mehdi Karoubi on Tuesday evening, Kaleme reported.

The West suspects Iran is seeking to develop nuclear bombs. Tehran denies this and says its programme is aimed at generating electricity.

Under the draft deal put forward by ElBaradei after consultations last week in Vienna with Iran, the United States, France and Russia, Iran would send low-enriched uranium (LEU) abroad for processing and eventual use in a research reactor.

It calls for Iran to transfer about 75 percent of its known 1.5 tonnes of LEU to Russia for further enrichment by the end of this year, then to France for conversion into fuel plates.

These would be returned to Tehran to power the reactor, which produces radio-isotopes for cancer treatment.

For the world powers, the plan’s appeal lies in reducing the stockpile of Iran’s LEU below the threshold needed for conversion into highly-enriched uranium for an atom bomb.

This would buy about a year of time for negotiations on halting enrichment in Iran in exchange for benefits to forge a long-term solution to a standoff over its nuclear ambitions.

The Islamic Republic has ruled out any restraints on its “legal and obvious” right to enrich, and says it is doing so only for power plant fuel, not nuclear warheads.

But its history of nuclear secrecy and continued curbs on U.N. inspections raised Western suspicions that it ultimately seeks to derive bombs from enrichment technology.

Reporting by Reza Derakhshi; writing by Fredrik Dahl; editing by Robin Pomeroy