Iran offers to ship uranium, complicating sanctions talks

Michael Slackman New York Times, 05/17/2010

CAIRO — Iran announced an agreement on Monday to ship some of its nuclear fuel to Turkey in a deal that could offer a short-term solution to its ongoing nuclear standoff with the West, or prove to be a tactic aimed at derailing efforts to bring new sanctions against Tehran. The deal, negotiated by Turkey and Brazil, calls for Iran to ship 1,200 kilograms (2,640 pounds) of low enriched uranium to Turkey, where it would be stored. In exchange, after one year, Iran would have the right to receive about 265 pounds of material enriched to 20 percent from Russia and France.

The terms mirror a deal with the West last October that fell apart when Iran backtracked. But it is far from clear that the Obama administration will agree to it now — in part because Iran has continued to enrich uranium, adding to its stockpiles. In October, the 2,640 pounds that Iran was supposed to ship out of the country represented about two-thirds of its stockpile of nuclear fuel — enough to ensure that it would not retain sufficient nuclear material to make a weapon.
But now, the same amount of fuel accounts for a smaller proportion of its declared stockpile.
According to a Western diplomat who spoke in return for anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters, the amount of low-enriched uranium that Iran was prepared to ship to Turkey was believed to represent a little more than half its current stockpile.

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