Iran Nuclear NewsOutlook for Iran fuel offer grim - U.N. nuclear...

Outlook for Iran fuel offer grim – U.N. nuclear chief

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ImageReuters: Iran appears to be deadlocked in talks with Russia, the United States and France on a U.N.-backed nuclear fuel offer for a research reactor in Tehran, the U.N. nuclear watchdog chief said. By Louis Charbonneau

ImageWASHINGTON (Reuters) – Iran appears to be deadlocked in talks with Russia, the United States and France on a U.N.-backed nuclear fuel offer for a research reactor in Tehran, the U.N. nuclear watchdog chief said on Tuesday.

The new International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director-general, Yukiya Amano, said he has thrown his support behind an idea hatched by his predecessor Mohamed ElBaradei.

That plan calls for Iran to ship most of its stock of low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for further enrichment and transformation into fuel assemblies for a Tehran research reactor that produces isotopes for cancer treatment.

But Iran, Russia, France and the United States have been unable to agree on how to guarantee that Tehran will get its uranium back. Amano was asked if he thought there was a way to bridge the differences and make the deal work.

"I don't see that indication for now," he told reporters on the sidelines of U.S. President Barack Obama's two-day summit meeting on nuclear security.

Iran agreed to the offer in principle at a meeting in Geneva last October but balked at it later. Under the proposal, some 1,200 kg (2,646 lb) of low enriched uranium — enough for a single bomb if purified to a high enough level — would be sent to Russia and then France for up to a year.

The United States and other Western powers that fear Iran is secretly developing the capability to produce atomic weapons — an allegation Tehran denies — welcomed the proposal as a way for the Islamic Republic to show it is committed to peaceful nuclear energy as it says is the case.

But the agreement appeared to fall apart after Iran insisted that it receive fresh fuel for the research reactor before handing over its uranium stocks. It later agreed to a simultaneous swap but insisted the exchange would have to take place on Iranian soil, which the Western powers have rejected.

Iran's neighbor Turkey offered to act as a neutral location for the exchange but Tehran was not interested, Western diplomats say.

Russia and China have repeatedly urged the Iranians to accept the IAEA proposal, both publicly and privately, but Tehran has refused to budge, saying it will not negotiate under pressure.

Moscow and Beijing have made clear that their decision to join negotiations with the United States, Britain, France and Germany on a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Tehran was partly due to Iran's refusal to accept the fuel offer.

Although he was not hopeful, Amano said the offer was "still on the table."

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

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