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Iran 'agrees' nuclear fuel swap
Mon May 17, 2010 00:20

Iran 'agrees' nuclear fuel swap
The announcement followed a day of meetings between Iranian and Brazilian officials [AFP]

Iran, Turkey and Brazil have reached a deal on procedures for a nuclear fuel swap aimed at easing concerns over Tehran's nuclear programme, Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, has said.

Davutoglu announced the agreement at a news conference late on Sunday after Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime mininster, postponed a trip to Azerbaijan to join talks on the issue in Tehran.

He said the deal was reached "after almost 18 hours of negotiations"; a formal announcement is expected on Monday morning.

Erdogan flew into Tehran after Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil's president, held a day of talks with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his Iranian counterpart, in what had been portrayed by the US and Russia as a last chance to avoid new sanctions.

Turkish television reported that the three leaders discussed a deal that would see the exchange in Turkey of Iran's low-enriched uranium for nuclear fuel processed abroad.

But details - such as the amount of uranium to be handed over, and how the proposed exchange would take place - have not yet been released.

Announcement expected

Al Jazeera's Alireza Ronaghi, reporting from Tehran, said that a Group of 15 summit was scheduled to begin Monday morning in Tehran, and that the fuel swap could be announced at the opening of the meeting.

"The G15 summit will be inaugurated by a speech by President Ahmadinejad and I expect that speech to include some elements about the deal," he said.
In depth

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"I expect that he will be as defiant and aggressive as ever, but at the same time it will show that Iran is for negotiations and it is giving these concession to show Iran's goodwill."

Speculation had been growing that something would be announced after Erdogan changed his travel plans. The Turkish prime minister had initially cancelled his plans to visit Iran.

Lula's visit, which has included a meeting with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, as well as Ahmadinejad, was seen as a last ditch attempt to mediate a deal.

Before departing for Tehran, Lula had said that he was "optimistic" about the visit, and that he hoped to persuade Ahmadinejad to reach an agreement with the West over its nuclear work.

"I must now use everything I have learned over my long political career to convince my friend Ahmadinejad to come to an agreement with the international community," he said.

The US and Russia had warned that the chances of success were weak. But before the talks, Tehran signalled a willingness to listen to any proposals.

"We have received many proposals and we are considering them," Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's atomic chief, was quoted as saying on Saturday in local media.

"There is a willingness on both sides to resolve the problem and things are moving positively."

Iranian reluctance

Iran has previously been reluctant to allow its stockpile of uranium to leave the country before receiving the nuclear fuel, saying that the exchange must take place simultaneously inside the country.

Last week, however, Mohsen Shaterzadeh, Iran's ambassador to Brazil, said that an exchange in another country might be acceptable.

Brazil and Turkey, both non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, have so far failed to support US-led efforts to push through new sanctions against Iran over its failure to accept repeated ultimatums to stop uranium enrichment activity.

"I think Iran has an interest in keeping Turkey on its side, in keeping Brazil on its side, and it has an interest to add more friends than enemies," Mahjoob Zweiri, an Iran expert at Qatar University, told Al Jazeera.

The US and its allies say that Iran wants highly enriched uranium to make an atomic weapon, but Tehran says its programme is simply designed to meet its civilian energy needs.

Lula has in the past defended Iran's nuclear activities, saying Tehran has the right to atomic energy, and has repeatedly said sanctions would be counter-productive and ineffective.


At UN nuclear arms talks: U.S. threatens first strike on Iran
by Sara Flounders (source: Workers World)
Monday, May 17, 2010

A month-long meeting, involving 189 countries, is underway at the United Nations. It’s the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review.

This review of a nuclear disarmament treaty that went into effect 40 years ago occurs every 5 years. Its stated purpose was disarmament by the countries holding nuclear weapons, stopping the spread or proliferation of nuclear weapons to other countries, and the right of all countries to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Almost the only U.S. media attention of this international gathering has been the ridicule, threats and demonization heaped on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the only head of state to take the disarmament conference seriously enough to attend it and offer concrete suggestions on how to meet the goals of nuclear disarmament.

Rather than hear a call for NPT to oversee disarmament of all nuclear-armed states within a specific timeframe and a Middle East Nuclear Free Zone, the nuclear powers of U.S., Britain and France orchestrated a public walk-out during the Iranian president’s U.N. talk. They used their enormous political and economic strength to pressure 30 other countries to participate in the walk-out.

More ominous than the symbolism of a U.S.-led walk-out on disarmament proposals were the actions in Washington in the month leading up to the NPT.

President Barack Obama, while announcing the results of the Nuclear Posture Review of the Pentagon’s weapons on April 5, explicitly asserted the right to make a nuclear first-strike against Iran and North Korea if the U.S. deemed them to be in violation of nonproliferation rules.

The corporate-owned media actually described this as a disarmament proposal!

Just after this announcement, President Obama flew to Prague and with great flourish signed, with Russian President Medvedev, a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty to reduce the number of active nuclear weapons to 1,550.

But the New York Times gave the real reason for the disarmament proposals in the Nuclear Posture Review and the START Treaty with Russia. “At the heart of President Obama’s new nuclear strategy lies a central gamble: that an aging, oversize, increasingly outmoded nuclear arsenal can be turned to the new purpose of adding leverage” against Iran and North Korea. “We think we now have credibility Bush never did to tighten the noose,” said one of Obama’s aides. (April 6)

What could be a more cynical maneuver than signing a treaty on disarmament to give more weight to a first-strike nuclear threat against Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea?

Hopes were dashed for those who took President Obama at his word a year ago in Prague in the midst of his first European trip as president when he outlined a goal of “a world without nuclear weapons.” There was hope for at least a blanket statement that the U.S. would never be the first to use nuclear weapons.

It is essential to understand that nuclear weapons taken from active status do not have to be destroyed. The number of operationally inactive stockpiled nuclear warheads will remain in the high thousands as “responsive reserve warheads,” part of the “Stockpile Management Program.”

There is another impediment to any form of real U.S. disarmament. Regardless of the risk to humanity or the cost to U.S. workers, the sheer multibillion-dollar size of and super profits to major corporate military contractors and thousands of subcontractors in the U.S. capitalist economy all mean that there is a sector of the ruling class demanding that these weapons systems continue to be built. This was once justified using Cold War anti-communist rhetoric and now using “anti-terrorist” rhetoric.

U.S. deflects attention from its arsenal

The problem Washington faced, at a world conference to discuss disarmament, was how to deflect attention from the U.S.’s own role and any demands for clear disarmament.

The solution was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s demand to discuss the totally unsubstantiated charges that Iran is a global nuclear threat because the country could develop the capacity at some point years in the future to build a nuclear weapon.

The U.S. holds the majority of nuclear weapons — an enormous arsenal of 5,113 warheads by Washington’s own admission. Iran is still at the technical level of attempting to develop lowly enriched nuclear energy for fuel, lighting and medicine. Iran has enriched uranium to less than 5 percent, consistent with fuel for a small civilian nuclear power plant. Nuclear weapons use uranium that is highly enriched to more than 90 percent. Such enrichment requires technology that Iran does not possess.

Although the International Atomic Energy Agency, the watch-dog agency set up by the U.N., has consistently reported no evidence of links to a nuclear weapons program in Iran, the U.S. threats, sanctions and efforts at a still-more-stringent fourth round of sanctions have continued.

While Washington demands endless inspections of Iranian sites, it refuses to give any information on the deployment of its 12 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines that are on “hair-trigger” nuclear-launch readiness. These giant death machines are each armed with 24 Trident-II missiles with a range of more than 4,000 nautical miles. Each of the 24 missiles on board a sub has 4 MIRV nuclear warheads. This is total of 1,152 nuclear warheads hidden underwater in the oceans of the world, including in the Strait of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf and off the coast of Korea.

The U.S. has never demanded or even proposed inspection of the 400 nuclear weapons held by Israel with U.S. technical support and decades of diplomatic and political cover.

Washington continues to raise the fear that Iran or North Korea will spread nuclear weapons to other countries. The NPT prohibits nuclear weapons states from transferring nuclear weapons — including the direct or indirect control of such weapons — to nonnuclear weapons states. But this is exactly what the U.S. itself does.

Hundreds of B61 thermonuclear bombs and Tomahawk cruise missiles, among other U.S. nuclear weapons, are presently “hosted” in the nonnuclear NATO countries of Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey. U.S. nuclear weapons were held for decades in South Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Guam.

Far from submitting to intrusive inspections as it demands of Iran and North Korea, the U.S. will neither confirm nor deny the presence or absence of nuclear weaponry on board its nuclear-powered aircraft supercarriers.

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