Ahmadinejad at uranium enrichment plant in Natanz (Archive photo: AFP)
Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP
Ahmadinejad and Erdogan (archive)
Photo: AFP
Iran armed forces chief backs nuclear deal
'Exchange of fuel will prove bona fides of our peaceful nuclear activities,' General Firouzabadi says. Turkish energy minister says his country won't oppose to temporarily storing Iranian enriched uranium

Iranian armed forces chief of staff General Hassan Firouzabadi said on Friday he backed proposals for Tehran to ship out most of its stocks of low-enriched uranium in return for fuel for a reactor designed to produce medical isotopes.


"We won't suffer from an exchange of fuel," the Mehr news agency quoted the general as saying.


"On the contrary, in obtaining fuel enriched to 20 percent purity for the Tehran reactor, a million of our citizens will benefit from the medical treatment it can enable and we will prove at the same time the bona fides of our peaceful nuclear activities."


The general said he had no particular issue with the amount of low-enriched uranium that Iran shipped out -- 1,200 kilos (more than 2,640 pounds) under the current proposals drawn up by the UN nuclear watchdog and approved by the major powers.


"The quantity of uranium enriched to 3.5 percent that will be shipped out in order to obtain the fuel is not so large as to cause damage," he said.


Earlier Friday, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said his country would be willing to store enriched uranium from Iran.


Officials from Turkey and Iran, which have friendly relations, have discussed the idea of Tehran sending its uranium to Turkey in exchange for fuel to keep a nuclear medical facility running.


"There is no problem from the side of Turkey with Iran storing its low-grade uranium in Turkey. We cannot say no," Yildiz told reporters.


Addressing Iran's misgivings over sending low-enriched uranium (LEU) abroad before it gets reactor fuel in return, the UN nuclear watchdog has suggested Iran place the LEU in a friendly third country like Turkey, pending arrival of the fuel.


Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu held a telephone conversation with International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei on Thursday to discuss the issue.


But a senior Iranian official has dismissed the idea of Iran parking its LEU in a third country.


The plan is designed to allay Western suspicions that the Islamic Republic will try to use its enriched uranium to construct atomic weapons. Tehran denies this.


Tehran has yet to give a full, official reply on the proposal drafted by ElBaradei three weeks ago after consultations with Iran, France, Russia and the United States.


The plan for the exchange of uranium for fuel has stumbled on Iranian calls for amendments and more talks, which the United States has rejected.


Turkey, which hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier this week for an Islamic economic conference, has said in the past it is willing to mediate between Iran and the West over Iran's nuclear program. 


AFP and AP contributed to the report


First published: 11.13.09, 10:59
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