VIENNA, Austria, October 21, 2009 (ENS) – A draft agreement on providing Iran with fuel for a civilian nuclear research facility that could defuse tension over Iran’s nuclear program has emerged from nearly three days of talks supported by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA.
The nuclear fuel is for use at a reactor in Iran’s capital, Tehran, which produces medical radioisotopes for therapeutic and diagnostic procedures.
Those taking part in the discussions at the IAEA’s Vienna headquarters – Iran, France, Russia and the United States – have until Friday to approve of the draft text, which is a “balanced approach on how to move forward,” the agency’s Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei, told reporters.
ElBaradei said that the nuclear supply is needed to ensure the Tehran Research Reactor’s continued operation, which serves “purely humanitarian objectives.”
He expressed optimism that the four nations would endorse the draft agreement, which would be a “very important confidence-building measure that can defuse the crisis that has been going on for a number of years and open space for negotiations.”
If the four countries taking part in the talks endorse the draft agreement, it would then be forwarded to the IAEA Board of Governors for formal ratification.
“I must say that everybody who participated at the meeting was trying to help, trying to look to the future and not to the past, trying to heal the wounds that existed for many, many years,” ElBaradei said.
He voiced hope that if approved, the agreement will “open the way for a complete normalization of relations between Iran and the international community.”
ElBaradei did not reveal any details covered by the draft document, but sources close to the talks said it demands that Iran send most of its low-enriched uranium for further processing in another country.
He did not name the country, but in Geneva October 1, high-level officials of the governments of China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States proposed that Iran ship its low-enriched uranium to Russia and subsequently to France before the end of the year.
Iran has resisted the proposal that France would be involved, but ElBaradei said the draft agreement reached today does include France, which reprocesses civilian nuclear fuel at the COGEMA La Hague site. Reprocessing also takes place at the Mayak Chemical Combine in Russia.
Tehran Research Reactor (Photo courtesy Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
IAEA ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told Agence France Presse today, “France had announced their readiness. But of course, as you’ve noticed, the Russians have been responsible for the whole contract.”
The IAEA was selected as the venue for the discussions because Iran has requested the UN’s watchdog body to facilitate talks with potential nuclear fuel suppliers.
Earlier this month, it was announced after talks between ElBaradei and Iranian authorities that IAEA inspectors will visit a newly disclosed uranium enrichment facility under construction in Qom, southwest of the Iranian capital of Tehran.
The visit is scheduled for Sunday, October 25.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that the uranium enrichment facility violates UN Security Council resolutions because of the delay in its disclosure.
During his talks in New York in September with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ban repeated his request for Iran to implement Security Council resolutions and cooperate with the IAEA on resolving outstanding concerns regarding its nuclear programme.
Iran has stated that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but some other countries contend it is driven by military ambitions. The issue has been of international concern since the discovery in 2003 that the country had concealed its nuclear activities for 18 years in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The Obama administration welcomed the draft agreement. “I think would be an important step for the Iranians to show the international community their intentions,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the U.S. Institute of Peace (Photo courtesy U.S. State Dept.)
But U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today emphasized that Iran’s nuclear activities are still of concern to the United States.
“Iran continues to ignore resolutions from the United Nations Security Council demanding that it suspend its enrichment activities and live up to those international obligations,” Clinton said in remarks at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington.
“Prompt action is needed on implementing the plan to use Iran’s own low-enriched uranium to refuel the Tehran research reactor, which is used to produce medical isotopes,” Clinton said.
“The International Atomic Energy Agency doesn’t have the tools or authority to carry out its mission effectively,” said Clinton. “We saw this in the institution’s failure to detect Iran’s covert enrichment plant and Syria’s reactor project. Illicit state and non-state proliferation networks are engaging in sensitive nuclear trade and circumventing laws designed to protect us against the export and import of nuclear materials.”
“Together with the other permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, the United States is pursuing a dual-track approach toward Iran,” Clinton explained.
“If Iran is serious about taking practical steps to address the international community’s deep concerns about its nuclear program, we will continue to engage both multilaterally and bilaterally to discuss the full range of issues that have divided Iran and the United States for too long,” she said. “The door is open to a better future for Iran, but the process of engagement cannot be open-ended. We are not prepared to talk just for the sake of talking.”