Turkey still sees chance of Iran nuclear fuel swap deal

LONDON Thu Jul 8, 2010 9:50pm BST

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LONDON (Reuters) - Turkey still sees a chance of Iran doing a nuclear fuel swap on the basis of an agreement reached with Turkey and Brazil in May, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Thursday.

Under the deal reached in Tehran, Iran agreed to send some of its uranium abroad, reviving a fuel swap plan drafted by the United Nations with the aim of keeping its nuclear work in check.

But the agreement proved too little, too late to prevent a new batch of punitive sanctions from the United Nations, European Union and United States.

The West fears Iran is working to develop a nuclear weapon, a charge denied by Tehran which says its nuclear programme is peaceful.

"The Tehran agreement is dead. There (are) new sanctions. But there is a possibility of resolving this exchange of uranium based on the Tehran agreement. We have to use that," Davutoglu told the Chatham House thinktank in London.

"Iran must be more transparent, more open, and fulfil the commitments of the Tehran agreement and the P5+1 (the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany) must give a chance to this diplomacy rather than going to a confrontational attitude," he said.

"Turkey will continue to work for this diplomatic solution. We don't want military intervention in our region. We don't want more and more sanctions which will affect our economy. We don't want nuclear weapons in our region," he said.

SHOWING THE WAY

Turkey and Brazil's efforts had not failed, he said.

"We showed to the world that through diplomacy we can achieve something. The problem was nobody expected Turkey and Brazil would convince the Iranian side to sign this paper. Therefore it was difficult to adapt to the new situation," he said.

Under the May deal, Iran agreed to transfer 1,200 kg (2,646 lb) of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Turkey within a month and in return receive, within a year, 120 kg of 20 percent-enriched uranium for use in a medical research reactor.

However, Western diplomats said removing from Iran 1,200 kg of LEU -- enough, if highly enriched, to make a nuclear weapon -- was less significant than when it was first proposed because Iran's LEU stockpile had almost doubled in the interim. On June 9, the U.N. Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran. Brazil and Turkey, angry at the West's dismissal of their deal with Iran that they said made new sanctions unnecessary, voted against.

Brazil and Turkey's diplomatic initiative was widely seen as demonstrating a new assertiveness by two increasingly important regional powers.

Iran has said it is prepared to return to long-frozen talks with world powers on certain conditions, and not before the end of August. It has said it would resume nuclear talks with Turkey and Brazil earlier than that.

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator has suggested in a letter to the European Union's foreign affairs chief that talks could be held as soon as September on issues including the nuclear programme.

(Editing by Myra MacDonald)

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