Iranian minister dashes nuke deal hopes

Nov. 19, 2009 at 9:53 AM
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TEHRAN, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- Iran's foreign minister said Tehran would not ship its uranium elsewhere, apparently dashing hopes of reaching a nuclear fuel accord with Western countries.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Wednesday Iran would not send any of its uranium out of the country as outlined in a draft deal reached Oct. 1 by negotiators for Iran, the United States, France, Russia and the International Atomic Energy Agency, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

"Iran will not send its 3.5 percent-enriched uranium out of the country," Iranian state media quoted Mottaki as saying. He said Iran preferred to domestically enrich uranium to the 20 percent purity needed for its medical reactor, or to buy it, Iran's state media said.

The agreement proposed Iran send out the bulk of its low-enriched uranium to Russia for further processing. The uranium would then be returned to Iran for use in a medical research reactor.

Two U.N. Security Council officials said they consider the proposal essentially dead, but added they expected council members to wait until the end of the year before seeking a new round of sanctions against Iran.

For its part, the United States hasn't significantly pushed its allies to begin taking steps against Iran, arguing Iran should be given more time, the Journal said. President Barack Obama previously set a year-end deadline for Iran to respond to his overtures.

"We're headed toward crunch time on Iran in the next few months," said a Middle East diplomat involved in Iran diplomacy told the Journal.

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