Monday, November 16, 2009

Iran Awaits Response to Nuclear Proposal

By: Anoush Maleki – Press TV

As US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart discuss a timetable for imposing possible sanctions on Iran, the country awaits the West's official response to its proposal on exchanging nuclear material for fuel.

"Unfortunately, so far at least, Iran appears to have been unable to say yes to what everyone acknowledges is a creative and constructive approach," The New York Times quoted President Obama as saying after an hour long meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev. "We are running out of time with respect to that approach."

What the American president was referring to was a proposal by his administration that was forwarded to Iran through the UN nuclear agency. Under the offer, Tehran would relinquish the bulk of its low enriched uranium (LEU) and receive nuclear fuel for a medical research reactor in Tehran some 15 months later.

Although the draft of the deal was approved by Iranian representatives in nuclear talks in Vienna in mid-October, Iranian lawmakers rejected it after technical studies showed that it would only take two to three months for any country to further enrich the nuclear stockpile and turn it into metal nuclear rods for the Tehran Research Reactor.

Iran then put forward its own proposal to buy ready-made fuel under an agreement that would both satisfy its interests and address Western concerns about its controversial nuclear program.

The plan envisages a two-staged exchange; the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards nearly one third of Iran's uranium stockpile inside the Iranian territory for the time that it takes a supplier — Tehran says it will deal with any potential seller that is a member of the UN nuclear agency — to deliver uranium enriched to the level of 20 percent to the UN-monitored site.

If an agreement was reached based on Iran's proposal, the West would overcome its fears that the Iranian nuclear program, despite being monitored by UN agents 24 hours a day, would be used to pursue a military agenda and ultimately make Iran a nuclear armed state.

Iran says its activities are conducted in line with its obligations to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which it is a signatory to, and that it only seeks the civilian applications of the technology.

Nonetheless, Iran's proposal awaits an official reply from the West.

It has been reported that Turkey has stepped up to temporarily keep Iran's low enriched uranium. However, the government in Tehran has asserted that its uranium stockpile will not leave the country.

Meanwhile, in a move ignoring the proposal, Presidents Obama and Medvedev discussed what appeared to be preparations for imposing new rounds of sanctions against Iran — even though China, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, is opposed to such a move.

President Medvedev said the Kremlin was not "completely" happy about the pace of negotiations with Iran. "If something does not work there are other means to move the process further."

President Obama said the alternative to the failure of ongoing talks would be "an approach that would involve increasing pressure on Iran to meet its international obligations."

According to The New York Times, the Obama administration has set an internal deadline for negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says the closing date is the end of the year.

Iran says it is for dialogue but it is necessary for world powers to raise the spirit of cooperation.

Mohsen Rezaei, the former head of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and former presidential candidate who is currently the secretary of the Expediency Council, said in an interview on Sunday that the West should move to lift anti-Iran sanctions if it wants to build the ever-absent trust over the country's nuclear drive.

"I think suspension of sanctions against Iran could be an appropriate response and a trust-building measure from Westerners," he said.

Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said the US step to renew sanctions proves that President Obama is no better than his predecessor George W. Bush.

"After one year of giving speeches and baseless slogans, it is a disgrace to see the behavior and the attitudes of this president are not better than his predecessors," he said.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also commented on the issue.

"Our national security is the most important thing; our national unity is on top. And those who thought they could take concessions from the Iranian nation through imposing sanctions and issuing threats are disappointed today," he said. "They understand now they have no alternative but cooperation with the Iranian nation, they have no alternative to stop short and stand side by side with the Iranian nation."

And yet, the approach taken by the US administration seems to be the opposite. Accepting Iran's proposal would undoubtedly be seen as an auspicious step that would lead to further cooperation and negotiation.

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