Iran to exchange uranium on its own territory


Published in “Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ)” (Switzerland) on November 19, 2009
Source (German):
English translation (of excerpts): Elli

New offer from Tehran may represent a compromise in the internal power struggle
Iran has agreed to compromise with the West over the nuclear issue only if the proposed exchange of uranium takes place on its own territory.
Jürg Bischoff, Beirut

The Iranian foreign minister Mottaki declared that Iran would not ship its 3.5 percent enriched uranium abroad for further enrichment. Responding to a suggestion of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he instead proposed an exchange for higher enriched uranium (ca. 20 percent) on Iranian territory.

Mottaki also called for new technical talks to determine which quantities of each type of uranium can be exchanged. According to Mottaki, these proposals have already been deposited with the IAEA. His comments reveal the mistrust that the IAEA’s proposal, according to which 70 percent of Iran’s uranium would have been sent to Russia, has created in Tehran. The Russian ambassador in Iran has repeatedly tried to alleviate these concerns by reassuring that the IAEA’s plan was not a trick, and that Russia would – contrary to some rumours – stick to its commitments.


Over the last weeks, president Ahmadinejad has been campaigning for the nuclear deal, declaring it a victory for Iran in every respect. For example, he claimed that the West had given up its demand to halt uranium enrichment, and that Iran might participate in a global bank for nuclear fuel. Ahmadinejad’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, assured that Iran could now exert all its nuclear rights, thanks to its dynamic foreign policy.

Unusual fronts
The fronts in the debate over the uranium deal correspond to those of the regime’s internal power struggle. What seems paradoxical is that the populist and revolutionary hardliner Ahmadinejad is speaking in favor of the agreement, whereas traditional conservatives – by the way, in accordance with prominent reformers like Mir Hossein Mousavi – speak against it. Ahmadinejad apparently hopes that a settlement in the nuclear issue will strengthen his domestic position, which has been tarnished after his doubtful reelection in June. In contrast, his opponents hope for further weakening of his position if the deal is thwarted.

Mottaki’s new ideas seem to be the fruit of a typical Iranian compromise. However, it seems unlikely that the West can see a benefit in it.


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