Iran reportedly rejects accord
Diplomats cite its wish to keep uranium stocks
WASHINGTON - Iran told the UN nuclear watchdog yesterday that it will not accept a plan its negotiators agreed to last week to send its stockpile of uranium out of the country, according to diplomats in Europe and US officials briefed on Iran’s response.
The apparent rejection of the deal could unwind President Obama’s effort to buy time to resolve the nuclear standoff.
In public, neither the Iranians nor the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency revealed the details of Iran’s objections, which were made only hours after Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, insisted that “we are ready to cooperate’’ with the West.
But the European and US officials said Iranian officials had refused to go along with the central feature of the draft agreement reached Oct. 21 in Vienna: a provision that would have required the country to send about three-quarters of its current known stockpile of low-enriched uranium to Russia to be processed and returned for use in a reactor in Tehran used to make medical isotopes.
If Iran’s stated estimate of its stockpile of nuclear fuel is accurate, the deal that was negotiated in Vienna would leave the country with too little fuel to manufacture a weapon until the stockpile is replenished with additional fuel, which Iran is producing in violation of UN Security Council mandates.
US officials said they thought that the accord would give them a year or so to seek a broader nuclear agreement with Iran while defusing the possibility that Israel might try to attack Iran’s nuclear installations before Iran gains more fuel and expertise.
The Obama administration was anticipating that Iran would seek to back out of the deal.
A senior European official characterized the Iranian response as “basically a refusal.’’ “The key issue is that Iran does not agree to export its lightly enriched uranium,’’ the official said. “That’s not a minor detail. That’s the whole point of the deal.’’
Michael Hammer, a spokesman for the US National Security Council, said that “we await clarification of Iran’s response,’’ but that the United States was “unified with our Russian and French partners’’ in support of the agreement reached in Vienna. That agreement explicitly called for Iran to ship 2,600 pounds of low-enriched uranium to Russia by Jan. 15, according to officials who have seen the document, which has never been made public.