Iran Nuclear NewsIran seeks change in uranium plan

Iran seeks change in uranium plan

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ImageWall Street Journal: Iranian media reported Tuesday that Tehran would accept the general framework of a deal to ship out much of its nuclear fuel for enrichment, but it would also request "important changes" to the pact, raising fresh doubt over the agreement. The Wall Street Journal

By CHIP CUMMINS

ImageDUBAI — Iranian media reported Tuesday that Tehran would accept the general framework of a deal to ship out much of its nuclear fuel for enrichment, but it would also request "important changes" to the pact, raising fresh doubt over the agreement.

The statement, carried on the website of Iran's state-run TV, was the latest in several official and semi-officials comments appearing to criticize the deal in recent days. A number of Iranian officials have publicly questioned the fairness of the deal. Official leaks, meanwhile, have signaled Tehran would seek fresh concessions before approving it.

The criticism could be a last-minute negotiating tactic, or represent fissures amid Iran's leadership over the wisdom of the deal. It could also simply be officials pandering to a domestic audience that would see any retreat on Iran's tough stance over its right to a nuclear program as an embarrassment to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Mr. Ahmadinejad and Iran's top clerical establishment have struggled for months to extinguish an opposition movement that led the country's biggest anti-regime protests since the founding of the Islamic Republic 30 years ago. Embattled at home, the regime has been eager to demonstrate it hasn't been bowed on the world stage.

The recent criticism of the deal has clouded what last week appeared a limited, but optimistic, first step in negotiations between the West and Iran over its nuclear ambitions. Western diplomats have said they will wait for an official response from Iran, expected to be lodged this week with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Vienna-based United Nations nuclear watchdog that helped broker the deal.

European officials raised fresh public concern Tuesday. Speaking in Luxembourg, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, reacted quickly to reports Iran was seeking changes.

"The deal was a good deal, and I don't think it requires fundamental changes," the Associated Press quoted him saying.

France's foreign minister Bernard Kouchner accused Tehran of trying to get the agreement "thoroughly reworked." He expressed exasperation at Iran's delay in signing off on the agreement, but suggested the West would wait at least a few more days.

"It cannot take forever," he said, according to the AP. "We wait for answers."

Last Wednesday in Vienna, Iranian negotiators agreed with counterparts from the U.S., France, Russia and the IAEA to a deal that would see it send out the bulk of its low-enriched uranium for further enrichment in Russia. Iran would then use the fuel in a medical-research reactor.

Tehran failed to sign off on the deal by a Friday deadline set by the IAEA, saying it would respond by the middle of this week instead. State press reports Tuesday suggested an official response to the IAEA might not come until later in the week.

Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, or IRIB, reported on its website Tuesday afternoon that "Iran, while announcing to agree with the general framework of the Vienna agreement, requested some important changes to the draft agreement." It didn't provide further details.

IRIB didn't attribute the statement, further obscuring how much official weight it carried. An Arab-language affiliate carried the same statement, citing an unnamed official.

Meanwhile, Iran's state-run English-language news outlet, Press TV, said Tehran would object to part of the deal that requires Iran to send out all of the fuel at once. Western officials see that provision as a significant one, essentially depriving Iran, at least temporarily, of enough fissile material to make a nuclear weapon.

Iran could always build up more stock. But even a short delay in Iran's capabilities was seen as a significant break-through in talks.

Press TV quoted Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of Iran's foreign policy and national security commission, saying Iran would only send out its uranium in small, separate shipments, not all at once.

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