Nuclear swap deal may improve chances to break Iranian impasse

08:25, May 18, 2010      

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Under a nuclear fuel swap deal signed on Monday in Tehran by Iran, Turkey and Brazil, Iran will ship 1.2 tons of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for high-enriched fuel.

The move conveys a message to the international community: Tehran has, to a certain extent, changed its position on the nuclear issue.

That may allow more room for diplomacy and may increase the chances to break the current impasse on the thorny Iranian nuclear issue.

In fact, a nuclear fuel swap deal as such is one of the options on the international community's agenda on the Iranian nuclear issue.

In October, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) drafted a proposal that asks Iran to send its low-enriched uranium to Russia and France in exchange for high-enriched uranium. The United States, Britain and France even set a deadline for Tehran to follow suit.

Tehran rejected the proposal at the time, demanding a swap of the nuclear fuel on its soil. So the new deal signaled that Iran has softened its stance and switched into a more constructive mode.

Right after the deal's signing, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for a fresh round of talks on the nuclear issue.

For years, the Western coalition led by the United States has been accusing Iran of developing nuclear arms in the disguise of civilian projects, while Tehran insists that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes.

The Iran nuclear issue is a complicated one where international and regional security and stability are at stake, but most people agree that diplomacy is the best solution. Therefore, any signs of flexibility demonstrated by parties involved will help to resolve the issue.

Now Tehran has presented a solution, which many said is relevant to the IAEA proposal. Apparently, what the international community needs to do is to figure out a way to bridge the two.

Moreover, since Iran has decided to stay within the framework of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the international community has not exhausted all of its means.

But a big problem is that there is little trust between Tehran and the West, which can only be built upon substantial actions.

Mutual suspicion is evident. While the West is reluctant to respond to the new deal, the Iranian Foreign Ministry declared right after the deal's signing that the country will continue uranium enrichment.

In short, the new deal may improve chances to break the Iranian nuclear impasse, but it may also be a test of wisdom whether parties involved are able to seize the opportunities.



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