Iran ignores deadline and takes nuclear talks to brink

Tehran resists signing up to deal that would see enriched uranium sent abroad

Iran has ignored a deadline to respond to a proposed deal from the UN nuclear watchdog, saying it would give its verdict next week. Tehran's playing for time, coupled with reports of a counter-proposal that would keep its enriched uranium in-country, cast fresh doubts on the success of the diplomatic channel and raised the prospect of further sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

The International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) had given Tehran until yesterday to sign up to an agreement under which it would send its uranium to Russia and France for enrichment. As the deadline loomed, state television quoted a member of Iran's negotiating team who attended this week's talks in Vienna as saying that Tehran preferred to buy in nuclear fuel from abroad. This would fail to reduce Iran's domestic stockpile from worrying the international community, which fears it could be used for weapons.

As fears grew that the negotiations might be on the brink of collapse, the IAEA issued a statement saying that Iran had asked for more time to respond to the proposal, which had already been accepted by Washington, Paris and Moscow. "Iran informed [us] today that it is considering the proposal in depth and in a favourable light, but needs until the middle of next week to provide a response," it said.

US President Barack Obama has stepped up diplomatic engagement with the Iranian regime since coming to power, and Tehran's signature on the deal would have been seen as a major triumph for this new approach. Last night, a US State Department department spokesman said: "Obviously we would have preferred to have a response today. We approach this with a sense of urgency ... We hope that they will next week provide a positive response".

Talks were continuing last night, but Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister, said: "I cannot say the situation regarding Iran is very positive."

Earlier in the day, Iranian television quoted a senior Iranian negotiator as saying: "Iran is interested in buying fuel for the Tehran research reactor. We are waiting for the other party's constructive and trust-building response."

David Albright of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, which monitors nuclear proliferation, said: "This is a bad sign – buying nuclear fuel abroad is a complete non-starter. They seem to be looking for modifications that would fundamentally weaken the deal."

Although the IAEA's plan has not been made public, it is understood that it entails Iran shipping out 1.2 tonnes of its stockpile of 1.5 tonnes of low-enriched uranium to the IAEA. It would then be passed to Russia for refinement to 19.7 per cent purity, and then moved on to France to be turned into fuel rods.

If Tehran signs up to the deal, it would seriously handicap the country's options for manufacturing nuclear weapons, as 0.98 tonnes is the generally accepted amount of low-enriched uranium needed for a single nuclear bomb.

Circulating the proposals to the representatives of the Western powers and Iran in Vienna midweek, Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA said: "I very much hope that people see the big picture: see that this agreement could open the way for a complete normalisation of relations between Iran and the international community."

However, according to diplomatic sources, even if Iran finally agrees to the deal, it would demand that the uranium is sent out in separate batches over a prolonged period. The IAEA plan is for the entire amount to be transferred in one single shipment.

Most analysts agree that a failure to secure a deal would not mean that there would be military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities in the near future.

However, yesterday America and Israel launched a major joint military exercise with more than a thousand US troops and 17 US Navy ships joining Israeli forces for a week-long exercise. Israeli officials have kept up warnings that they reserve the right to carry out a pre-emptive attack on the facilities if the diplomatic dialogue fails.

Timeline: Nuclear negotiations

*25 September: In a dramatic press conference at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, Barack Obama – flanked by Nicolas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown – reveals the existence of a secret underground nuclear reactor at Qom, and calls for fresh sanctions against Tehran.

*1 October: Iranian diplomats meet representatives of international powers in Geneva and agree to inspections at Qom. It also said it would send uranium to be processed overseas.

*21 October: Despite tensions over Iran's refusal to negotiate with France, three days of talks in Vienna conclude with a draft IAEA deal.

*Yesterday: Iran ignores the deadline to respond to the IAEA proposal, instead offering its own plan where it would buy in nuclear fuel rather than sending its own uranium stocks overseas for processing.

*Tomorrow: IAEA officials due to visit the Qom site for first international inspection.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Digital Marketing Executive

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Learning Support Assistant

£65 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Due to the continual growth and...

AX Developer With EPOS Experience

£450 - £500 per day: Progressive Recruitment: Dynamics AX / Developer / AX2012...

Senior Analyst - ALM Data - Banking - Halifax

£350 - £400 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Analyst, ALM Data, Halifax, ...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz