Saturday, December 12, 2009

Iran gets Obama's clear message, but White House still unhappy with Iran nuke proposal

In Bahrain on Saturday, Irans foreign minister Mottaki said that Iran is ready to exchange the bulk of its stockpile of enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods - as proposed by the UN - but according to its own mechanisms and timetable.

Mottaki also said that another round of Western sanctions against his country would "have no influence," and would also be illegal and in contravention of the UN's charter.

Speaking to reporters at a regional security conference in Bahrain, Mottaki said Iran agreed with a UN deal proposed in October in which up to 1,200 kilograms of its uranium would be exchanged for fuel rods to power its research reactor.

"We accepted the proposal in principle," he said through a translator. "We suggested in the first phase we give you 400 kilograms of 3.5 percent enriched uranium and you give us the equivalent in 20 percent uranium."

A senior Obama administration official responded on Saturday said the White House was unhappy with remarks by Iranian Foreign Minister Manochehr Mottaki's remarks, who said Iran accepted the West's nuclear fuel proposal, but according to its own timetable.

"Iran's proposal today does not appear to be consistent with the fair and balanced draft agreement proposed by the IAEA in consultation with the United States, Russia, and France," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the US has yet to formulate an official response to the development.

Via Haaretz:
(Zvi Bar'el)..Tehran apparently heard loud and clear President Barack Obama's hint to Iran in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance Thursday, when he said it is "incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system." U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said publicly that he expected the international community to impose significant sanctions against Iran. However, Obama said he does not support isolating countries like Iran, preferring diplomatic solutions instead.

Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki spelled out the essence of Tehran's response to the international proposal regarding its enriched uranium: It was willing initially to store 400 kilograms of enriched uranium (out of 1,500 kilograms in its possession) on Kish Island in exchange for nuclear fuel. Mottaki said the offer was intended to test the seriousness of the international powers in delivering the promised fuel, insinuating that at the next stage they could talk about continuing the process.

Iran is not yet sure that Russia will oppose more sanctions, and Mottaki's statements are an attempt to keep the diplomatic channel alive. Tehran has so far called the storage of uranium on Iranian soil a "national principle" not to be surrendered. But it seems that Iran is willing to cut corners. While this is not a real concession - the entire amount of uranium will remain on Iranian soil - the portion that will be stored on Kish Island will not be part of the potential for use in the nuclear facilities in Natanz and Qom. The statement thus holds somewhat of a Justify Fullpromise for the future, especially when it is an effort to maintain the momentum of dialogue. The question is whether this offer is sufficient to stop the sanctions process or at least to bring Russia back to its former position opposing sanctions