World community cautiously welcomes new deal on Iranian nuclear fuel

08:31, May 18, 2010      

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Iran on Monday signed in Tehran an agreement with Turkey and Brazil on shipping most of its low enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for the 20 percent uranium fuel needed for its Tehran reactor.

The new agreement was reached at the tripartite meeting of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Iran's nuclear program.

The new fuel swap deal has made a big splash in the world, with Western powers expressing cautious welcome to the agreement.

NATO's supreme commander said the new fuel swap deal was "a potentially good development" and the Obama administration will shortly issue a statement on the agreement, said a U.S. official.

In Madrid, on the sidelines of an EU-Chile meeting, EU President Herman Van Rompuy on Monday stressed that Europe's position is unchanged after Iran's fuel swap deal. "We are seriously concerned about the nuclear program of Iran. Iran has so far refused to engage in serious discussions of reasonable concerns related to its nuclear program," he said.

At a news briefing, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner extended cautious welcome to the deal, saying that France needs to examine the agreement's contents before making any declaration on it.

France hasn't received the text of the agreement and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must be the first body to formally respond to the deal, he said. "It's the IAEA to make the decision" on the deal, he added.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who is on a visit to Ukraine, also welcomed the new agreement.

"What was done by our colleagues needs to be welcomed. This is the politics of a diplomatic solution to the Iran problem," Medvedev told reporters.

"We need to have consultations with all the parties, including Iran and then determine what to do next," he added.

Referring to the nuclear fuel swap deal, Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said, "This is welcome but does not solve the fundamental problem -- the international community has serious concerns about (the stated) peaceful intentions of Iran's nuclear program."

She said it was up to the UN agency to decide whether the announced deal is acceptable, stressing that Iran had not seriously sought to address the West's concerns.

As one of the G5+1 countries -- the five permanent United Nations Security Council members, the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain plus Germany -- Britain described Iran as "a serious cause for concern" despite the nuclear deal.

Iran should "immediately" inform the IAEA if it is going to ship some of its low-enriched uranium abroad in a fuel swap deal backed by Turkey and Brazil, British Junior Foreign Minister Alistair Burt said in a statement issued by the Foreign Office.

After signing the agreement, Ahmadinejad called for fresh talks on its controversial nuclear program with the world's major powers.

"Following the signing of the nuclear fuel swap deal, it is time for G5+1 countries to enter talks with Iran based on honesty, justice and mutual respect," Ahmadinejad said.

Ahmadinejad said the nuclear fuel swap deal could be the first step towards boosting and reorganizing cooperation between Iran, Brazil and Turkey.

Brazilian President Lula da Silva called the deal a "victory for diplomacy."

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, for his part, said Turkey will support Iran's legitimate right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

After signing the agreement, Ahmadinejad said he hoped world powers would engage in talks with Tehran following the announcement of the deal. Tehran insists it will go ahead with enrichment, even after signing the fuel deal.

Iran is already under three sets of UN sanctions for refusing to halt its uranium enrichment. Washington has submitted a fourth resolution to its partners, for closed-door discussions.



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