Iran Nuclear News Iran's uranium stance keeps a deal at bay

Iran’s uranium stance keeps a deal at bay

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Wall Street Journal: Hashemi Samareh, chief adviser and lifelong confidant to Iran’s president, said his country could join a proposed international bank for enriched uranium that would provide countries with safe fuel for nuclear power stations — but only as a supplier. The Wall Street Journal

By MARC CHAMPION
January 28, 2008; Page A3

DAVOS, Switzerland — Hashemi Samareh, chief adviser and lifelong confidant to Iran’s president, said his country could join a proposed international bank for enriched uranium that would provide countries with safe fuel for nuclear power stations — but only as a supplier.

Control over Iran’s nuclear policy ultimately lies with Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. However, the offer, made in an interview, would defeat the purpose of the proposed fuel bank: to remove any need for Iran to enrich uranium domestically. It also appears to dash a remaining glimmer of hope for compromise in the long-running international dispute over Iran’s nuclear-fuel program.

Mr. Samareh’s appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos to press Iran’s case appears to be a sign of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s growing control over the nuclear issue within Iran and of Tehran’s determination to proceed with a nuclear program, despite plans for further sanctions against Iran at the United Nations Security Council.

“Having this nuclear-fuel cycle is part of our right. There is no reason — when we can produce something — to go get it from other people,” Mr. Samareh said through a translator. “This doesn’t mean we will reject outright proposals from other governments. …Iran could supply this fuel bank.”

Uranium enrichment can produce fuel for either civilian or weapons use. Iran insists that its nuclear-fuel program, kept secret until its exposure by an Iranian exile group more than five years ago, is designed for civilian purposes. The U.S. and other countries, however, suspect its goal is military.

A draft resolution aimed at pressuring Iran to comply with previous U.N. demands that it suspend its enrichment program circulated Friday at the Security Council in New York. The resolution would ban trade in civilian and weapons-related nuclear equipment with Iran. It would also tighten travel bans and asset freezes for some Iranian officials and call for countries to inspect suspicious cargo bound for Iran, according to agency reports.

Iran, however, has been buoyed by a National Intelligence Estimate issued by U.S. intelligence agencies late last year. The NIE said Iran discontinued its nuclear-weaponization program in 2003. Iran also hopes that by March, it will have answered remaining questions from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s Vienna-based nuclear watchdog.

“We are accustomed to these sanctions,” said Mr. Samareh, adding that he believed that in the wake of the NIE, a new round of sanctions would be more damaging to the image of the Security Council than to Iran.

The U.S. and major European governments remain worried that, with commercial-scale uranium-enrichment capability, Iran would be able to quickly produce a nuclear bomb if it wanted to. That capability would be perceived as a threat by Israel, which is already believed to have nuclear weapons, and could trigger an arms race in a region that is home to much of the world’s oil and natural-gas supplies, analysts say.

So far, the U.S. and other powers have rejected proposals that Iran could make its own uranium under monitoring by the IAEA. “What you are proposing is to bring Iran within days or weeks of a nuclear capability,” said Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

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