Iran on Friday failed to accept a U.N.-drafted plan that would ship most of the country's uranium abroad for enrichment, saying instead it would prefer to buy the nuclear fuel it needs for a reactor that makes medical isotopes.
The response will come as a disappointment to the U.S., Russia and France, which endorsed the U.N. plan Friday they drafted in discussions with Iran earlier in the week. The agreement was meant to ease Western fears about Iran's potential to make a nuclear weapon.
While Iran did not reject the plan outright, state TV said that Tehran was waiting for a response to its own proposal to buy nuclear fuel rather than ship low-enriched uranium to Russia for further enrichment. Iran has often used counterproposals as a way to draw out nuclear negotiations with the West.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran is waiting for a constructive and confidence building response to the clear proposal of buying fuel for the Tehran research reactor," state TV quoted an unnamed source close to Iran's negotiating team as saying Friday, Associated Press reports .
The deal, proposed by the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA), has already been approved by the other parties -- the United States, Russia and France.
Details of Iran's nuclear program emerged in August 2002 when the exiled opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran reported the existence of a uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and a heavy water plant at Arak, Reuters informs.
On Oct. 1, Iran met with the so-called “P5+1″ powers — the U.S., Germany, Russia, France, Britain and China — after the disclosure of a previously unknown nuclear facility at Qom that is still under construction. At that meeting, not only did Iran agree to allow the IAEA inspections at Qom, but U.S. diplomats left the meeting with the impression that Iran had also agreed to an audacious plan to ship out 75 percent of its low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for reprocessing.
But since then, Iran has denied that it has reached any such deal to ship its uranium out of the country, and in response, the P5+1 convened this week’s meeting in Vienna. Talks are still ongoing, and could last until as long as Wednesday. Early reports indicate that Iran is objecting to France’s role in the process, but it is not yet clear whether Iran will ultimately accept the deal. An anonymous diplomat quoted by The New York Times dismissed some rejectionist rhetoric from the Iranian delegation as “opening-day posturing,” The Washington Independent informs.
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