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Clinton calls Iran offer a ploy to avoid sanctions

Tehran wants to trade uranium for reactor fuel

By Matthew Lee
Associated Press / May 26, 2010

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BEIJING — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday rejected as inadequate an Iranian plan to swap some of its enriched uranium for reactor fuel and called the offer a “transparent ploy’’ to try to avoid new UN Security Council sanctions over its suspect nuclear program.

Speaking in the Chinese capital of Beijing, Clinton said the swap offer submitted on Monday to the UN’s nuclear watchdog did not address international concerns about Iran’s atomic ambitions and that the US-led push for fresh Security Council penalties would continue.

“There are a number of deficiencies with it that do not answer the concerns of the international community,’’ she told reporters after two days of intense strategic and economic talks with the Chinese that included lengthy discussions about Iran. For one, she noted that despite the offer Iran insists on continuing to enrich uranium at a high level.

The swap offer was negotiated last week by Brazil and Turkey, which are opposed to new UN sanctions on Iran. A day later, the United States announced that it had won agreement from the permanent members of the Security Council and Germany on a draft resolution that would hit Iran with a fourth round of penalties.

Clinton dismissed Iran’s decision to accept Brazilian-Turkish mediation as a last-ditch attempt to avoid Security Council action that it knew were coming. She said traditional sanctions opponents like Russia and China saw the move in the same light.

“There is a recognition on the part of the international community that the agreement that was reached in Tehran a week ago between Iran and Brazil and Turkey only occurred because the Security Council was on the brink of publicly releasing the text of the resolution that we have been negotiating for many weeks,’’ Clinton said.

Tehran had no official comment, but Iranian state television called Clinton’s remarks “hasty.’’

“It shows that the US is not after a solution’’ for Iran’s nuclear issue and that Washington’s attitude is similar to a “political deception,’’ the TV commentary said. It added that the “ground for talks will be paved’’ if the United States and Western allies respect the “rules of the game.’’

Clinton said progress had been made on finalizing details of the new resolution, particularly with the Chinese who have been objecting to some specific companies and individuals that would be targeted by the economic and financial penalties. China has vast investments in Iran and has been resistant to sanctions, although it signed onto the draft.

“We discussed all this in great detail with our Chinese friends, and we are moving forward to hold Iran accountable,’’ she said.

At UN headquarters in New York, US Ambassador Susan Rice said specialists from the Security Council member nations were working through the text of the draft resolution. “The inputs and comments we’ve received from fellow council members have been constructive,’’ she said.

In Washington, the two US lawmakers leading efforts to craft an Iran sanctions bill said that they will delay passage of their legislation in light of the progress made at the UN.

They had intended to send a sanctions measure to President Obama by the end of May, despite the administration’s preference that they wait until after the UN and European Union adopt sanctions.

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