Iran Nuclear NewsJapan urges Iran to halt uranium enrichment

Japan urges Iran to halt uranium enrichment

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AFP: Japan urged Iran Monday to halt its controversial uranium enrichment programme, hinting Tokyo might support additional international sanctions against the country, officials said.

TOKYO (AFP) — Japan urged Iran Monday to halt its controversial uranium enrichment programme, hinting Tokyo might support additional international sanctions against the country, officials said.

The move came as Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada met his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki in Tokyo at Tehran’s request after the United States presented a draft resolution to the UN Security Council.

The United States is pushing for a resolution that would punish Iran with a fourth set of sanctions because of fears that Tehran is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran maintains that its nuclear programme is peaceful.

Okada told Mottaki fresh sanctions would be “unavoidable” if Tehran continued a programme of enriching uranium to about 20 percent, the Japanese foreign ministry said in a statement.

Okada urged Tehran to stop the programme “for the benefit of the Iranian people,” according to statement, which summarised his telephone conversation later in the day with British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Hague told Okada they shared the same position on the Iranian nuclear issue, the release said.

Okada told Japanese media after the meeting that what he had told Mottaki had “connotations” that Japan might support fresh sanctions.

“I asked Iran to make a crucial political decision” to avert additional sanctions, he added.

Okada quoted Mottaki as telling him that Iran’s nuclear development was strictly for peaceful purposes and that there was no need for the sanctions.

Okada welcomed a recent accord brokered by Brazil and Turkey to transport Iran’s low-enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for nuclear fuel.

Under the deal, Iran has committed to deposit 1,200 kilograms (2,640 pounds) of low-enriched uranium in Turkey in return for reactor fuel.

But the deal drew a cool reaction from world powers led by the United States, which has pushed for new sanctions against Tehran. Western governments say the deal fails to address concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme.

Mottaki told a news conference on Monday that he remained hopeful the swap deal would go ahead despite the frosty reaction from the United States.

“I don’t expect that the deal will fail because of the US position,” Mottaki said.

“I can’t say how big the chance is in percentage terms, but I have great hopes for the realisation of the deal,” he said, according to a Japanese translation of his remarks, which were made in Farsi.

France and Russia had previously offered to supply Iran with the higher-enriched fuel.

Mottaki said the deal with Ankara and Brasilia was “different because it was built on mutual trust, but it was the same as previous proposals in that it was a swap deal.”

He also said that “Japan has made a similar proposal in talks with the Iranian ambassador to Japan.”

In February, Iran’s parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani said in Tokyo that Iran would study a Japanese offer to enrich uranium for Tehran to allow it access to nuclear power for peaceful purposes.

Mottaki said Monday that “the plan to ship 1,200 kilograms of uranium to Japan was also discussed, because we have trust in countries like Japan, Turkey and Brazil.”

“Then finally we reached the deal that we ship 1,200 kilograms to Turkey. We’d hoped that there would be a four-party deal including Japan.”

Mottaki reiterated that Iran is committed to the civilian use of its nuclear power and observing the nuclear nonproliferation treaty as well as the rules of the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

He also accused Israel of being “the only country in the Middle East that holds nuclear weapons” and called for it to ratify the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

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