Page last updated at 20:42 GMT, Monday, 17 May 2010 21:42 UK

West sceptical over Iran nuclear deal


Iranian, Brazilian and Turkish foreign ministers brokered the deal

Western states have given a cool response to Iran's announcement it will send uranium abroad for enrichment after talks with Turkey and Brazil.

The UN and Russia said the move was encouraging, but the US expressed concern at Iran's statement that it would continue to enrich uranium.

The US and the UK said work on a UN resolution imposing more sanctions on Tehran would continue.

The West suspects Iran's nuclear programme is aimed at making weapons.

Iran insists it is solely designed to meet its energy needs.

Tehran hopes the new agreement - in which it would ship 1,200kg (2,645lb) of low-enriched uranium to Turkey in return for higher-grade nuclear fuel for a research reactor - would avert new sanctions.

Progress made?

In a deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil, Iran said it was prepared to move uranium within a month of its approval by the so-called Vienna Group (US, Russia, France and the IAEA).

Barbara Plett
By Barbara Plett
BBC UN correspondent

A key part of the Western strategy has been winning international consensus for a new round of sanctions.

Russia and particularly China have been reluctant to support such a move, they may now want to further delay the process until they see what the deal means in practice.

Here the UN's nuclear monitoring agency, the IAEA, will be crucial: a positive response would lend the agreement significant credibility.

Even if that doesn't happen, Turkey and Brazil have to be taken into account.

They are both current members of the Security Council, and while they couldn't block a new sanctions resolution, they could split the vote, which is what Iran wants.

In return, Iran says it expects to receive 120kg of more highly enriched uranium (20%) - a purity well below that used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons - within a year.

The deal does not address the central nuclear issues dealt with by successive UN Security Council resolutions - Iran's refusal to halt its enrichment programme.

The US reacted by saying it still had serious concerns over Iran's nuclear programme, although it did not reject the agreement.

The US is in the final stages of negotiating a fourth sanctions package with other UN Security Council members.

It said the Iranian government "must demonstrate through deeds - and not simply words - its willingness to live up to international obligations or face consequences, including sanctions".

"While it would be a positive step for Iran to transfer low-enriched uranium off of its soil as it agreed to do last October, Iran said today that it would continue its 20% enrichment, which is a direct violation of UN Security Council resolutions," said a White House statement.

Russia welcomed the deal, although President Dmitry Medvedev said further talks were needed on Iran's nuclear programme.


Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said there had been "some important progress" in talks at the Security Council on fresh sanctions against Tehran.

Iran will notify the IAEA of the details of the agreement within a week
If approved by the Vienna Group, Iran will ship 1,200kg of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Turkey
The LEU will remain the property of Iran while in Turkey
Tehran and the IAEA may send observers to monitor its security
The Vienna group must then deliver 120kg of nuclear fuel to Iran within a year
Iran may request that Turkey return its LEU "swiftly and unconditionally to Iran

The UK, for its part, said work on a UN resolution would continue until Tehran showed its intentions were peaceful.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva were at the talks in Tehran with Mr Ahmadinejad.

Crucially, Turkey and Brazil are both on the UN Security Council, and so have a vote on those sanctions.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who spent 18 hours hammering out the deal with his Brazilian and Iranian counterparts, said there was now no need for more sanctions against Iran.

"The swap deal shows that Tehran wants to open a constructive path... there is no more ground for new sanctions and pressures," he said.

Iran has been mounting a big diplomatic effort to prevent new UN sanctions; its foreign minister has visited all 15 members of the Security Council.

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