Iran Denies Western Reports of Agreement to Ship Uranium Stockpiles to Russia
With the November 24 deadline for a deal over Iran’s nuclear program fast approaching, the authorities in Tehran moved quickly to deny western media reports that an agreement had been reached whereby the Iranians would ship much of their enormous uranium stockpile to Russia.
Press TV, the regime’s English language mouthpiece, reported that “Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham reaffirmed in a Tuesday statement that Tehran does not confirm the politically-motivated speculations by certain foreign media outlets.”
Afkham’s denial came in response to a New York Times claim that “under the proposed agreement, the Russians would convert the uranium into specialized fuel rods for the Bushehr nuclear power plant, Iran’s only commercial reactor. Once the uranium is converted into fuel rods, it is extremely difficult to use them to make a nuclear weapon.”
Noted the Times: “That could go a long way toward alleviating Western concerns about Iran’s stockpile, though the agreement would not cut off every pathway that Tehran could take to obtain a nuclear weapon.”
According to Press TV, “Afkham added that such media reports are aimed at influencing the climate of Iran-P5+1 talks ahead of a new round of negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear energy program, slated to be held in Oman on November 11.”
The broadcaster was also determined to underline that Iran’s basic negotiating position has not changed. “Sources close to the Iranian negotiating team say the main stumbling block in the way of resolving the Western dispute over Iran’s nuclear energy program remains to be the removal of all the bans imposed on the country, and not the number of centrifuges or the level of uranium enrichment,” Press TV said. “Tehran wants the sanctions entirely lifted while Washington, under pressure from the pro-Israeli lobby, insists that at least the UN-imposed sanctions should remain in place.”
The Times observed “that negotiators between Iran and the United States and five other nations are still far from agreement on a range of other issues that could derail a final agreement, including the number of centrifuges the country could keep spinning, the speed at which economic sanctions would be suspended, the fate of a heavy-water reactor that produces plutonium, and whether international inspectors would be free to visit any suspected covert facilities.”
In the decade of protracted, unsuccessful negotiations that followed the revelations of Iran’s covert nuclear program, the proposal that Iran ship uranium stocks to Russia has been mooted on several occasions. In 2009, the Times reported that “Iran’s agreement in principle to export most of its enriched uranium for processing — if it happens — would represent a major accomplishment for the West, reducing Iran’s ability to make a nuclear weapon quickly and buying more time for negotiations to bear fruit.” Iran’s eventual agreement, however, was not secured.
Meanwhile, in October 2013 – one month before the signing of the Geneva Agreement, which resulted in the relaxing of sanctions on Iran in exchange for minor curbs on Iran’s nuclear activities – Iranian president Hasan Rouhani affirmed that the regime “would not allow any of its enriched uranium stockpile to be shipped abroad, but could sanction other curbs on its nuclear program to reassure the international community it is not interested in building a bomb.”