Turkey offers to mediate between Iran, West over nuclear talks

Turkey said diplomacy is the best way to resolve the row over Iran's atomic programme and that Ankara is ready to mediate between Tehran and world powers.

Turkey offers to mediate between Iran, West over nuclear talks

UN Security Council member Turkey said Tuesday diplomacy is the best way to resolve the row over Iran's atomic programme and that Ankara is ready to mediate between Tehran and world powers.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, on a visit to Tehran, reiterated that Ankara favoured negotiations to resolve the impasse.

"The solution for Iran's nuclear programme is through negotiations and diplomatic process," Davutoglu said at a media conference in Tehran in remarks translated through an interpreter.

Turkey, one of the 15 UN Security Council members and a regional ally of Iran, "is ready to act as an intermediary in the issue of uranium exchange as a third country and hopes to have a fruitful role in this," Davutoglu added.

"We will continue to try our best to see what we can do for this nuclear fuel swap."

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who jointly addressed the press conference with Davutoglu, said Iran has been regularly consulting Turkey over its nuclear programme, but did not explicitly react to Ankara's latest offer.

"Turkey will do its part if Iranians deem fit," Davutoglu said in response.

Iran says it enriches uranium for civilian applications and that as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it has a right to the technology already in the hands of many others.

However, most experts estimate that Israel has at least between 100 and 200 nuclear warheads, largely based on information leaked to the Sunday Times newspaper in the 1980s by Mordechai Vanunu, a former worker at the country's Dimona nuclear reactor.

Israel, which has initiated several wars in the region in its 60-year history, has not denied having nuclear weapons, but has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and open its facilities for IAEA perusal.

Israel also often threatens Iran an attack over its nuclear sites.

"Deal still possible"

The October 2009 deal envisaged Iran sending its low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for conversion into high-grade 20 percent enriched uranium, to be returned later to Tehran as fuel for the medical research reactor.

But the deal stalled when Iran demanded that the exchange of the two materials happen simultaneously inside the country, a condition rejected by world powers.

Mottaki at the weekend said Tehran planned to talk to all the 15 members of the UN Security Council, including Washington, over the proposed fuel swap.

On Monday he went further and said he believed a deal was still possible.

"If the other side has serious political will for the fuel exchange formula, this can be a multi-lateral trust building opportunity, especially for the Islamic republic to trust the other side," he said.

"Deal needs to be updated"

At a separate news conference, Mottaki's spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was asked if a fuel swap could happen in Turkey.

"Friendly countries including Turkey are trying hard to make the other party understand our nuclear rights," he replied. "There are different ideas but these are only doable if our conditions are observed."

Sanctions on Iran, Turkey's second-biggest gas supplier, could have a knock-on impact on its neighbour. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said bilateral trade with Turkey was worth $11 billion and that there was potential to boost that to $20 billion.

"We believe diplomacy is the key to the resolution of the outstanding problems between Iran and the 5+1 countries," Mottaki said, referring to the negotiating group of the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

Washington on Sunday expressed interest in reviving the fuel deal but said the UN-proposed offer needed to be "updated."

"We're still interested in pursuing that offer if Iran is interested," US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in Washington.

"At the heart of this was the proposal that Iran would ship out significant amounts of enriched fuel and there would be an exchange for a corresponding amount of fuel suitable for" the Tehran medical research reaction, he said.

However, he said the deal would "need to be updated" as Iran has been operating centrifuges -- the device that enriches uranium at supersonic speed -- in the seven months since the offer was first made.


Agencies

Last Mod: 20 Nisan 2010, 15:19
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