Iran Only Wants Uranium Exchange on Its Soil

Iran is ready to exchange its low-enriched uranium with a higher enriched material, but only on its own soil, to guarantee the West follows through with promises to give the fuel, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

The Iranian terms mean an effective rejection of a U.N.-brokered plan designed to delay its ability to build a nuclear weapon. Under the plan, Iran would export its uranium for enrichment in Russia and France where it would be converted into fuel rods, which would be returned to Iran about a year later.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Iran had sent its response on the proposal to the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus German, saying it wants a simultaneous exchange on Iranian soil.

"Iran's answer is given. I think the other side has received it," said Mehmanparast. "Creation of a 100 percent guarantee for delivery of the fuel is important for Iran."

Iranian officials have accused the West of breaking past promises to supply it technology. They say they don't trust the West will eventually send back the fuel rods if Tehran lets its uranium abroad.

The United States and its European allies accuse Iran of embarking on a nuclear weapons program. Iran denies the claim, saying its program aims only to generate electricity.

Low enriched uranium is used to fuel a nuclear energy reactor, but highly enriched uranium can be turned into a warhead. The U.N.-backed plan aims to ensure Iran, at least temporarily, does not have enough low enriched fuel that it could process further to build a bomb.

Under the plan, Russia and France would enrich Iran's uranium to a medium level of 20 percent and produce fuel rods for Tehran's research reactor, which is used for medical purposes. The rods cannot be readily turned into weapons-grade material.

Mehmanparast stressed Tuesday that Iran is capable of doing the medium-level enrichment itself if it chooses. "The ability for the production of 20 percent enriched uranium is available to our experts. Under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, there is no ban on it. We have not begun yet," said Mehmanparast.

The U.N. has demanded that Iran suspend all enrichment, a demand Tehran has refused, saying it has a right to develop the technology under the NPT.