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Iran 'To Sign Nuclear Deal'


President Mahmud Ahmadinejad (left) and his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva review a guard of honor in Tehran on May 16.
Iran has agreed to a nuclear fuel swap deal after mediation talks with Brazilian and Turkish leaders.

Iran said that it would ship 1,200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey in return for nuclear fuel for a Tehran research reactor. Further details about the swap were not immediately available.

The deal was reached in talks between Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

The United States is pushing for another round of UN Security Council sanctions against Iran for failing to halt uranium enrichment which Western nations worry is aimed at making atomic weapons.

Iran, which says its nuclear program is peaceful, last year rejected a UN-backed plan to ship its enriched uranium abroad to be exchanged for nuclear fuel because it wanted the swap to take place on its soil.

Brazil and Turkey are both nonpermanent members of the UN Security Council.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu, speaking after signing the deal with his Brazilian and Iranian counterparts, said Turkey sees "no need" for further sanctions against Iran.

Iran's Ahmadinejad called on world leaders for more nuclear talks.

Brazilian Visit

Ahmadinejad welcomed Lula at his office in the Iranian capital on the morning of May 16, where the two leaders held initial talks after an official welcome ceremony.

Several trade agreements were announced on May 16 and Lula said Brazil would finance 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) of food exports to Iran over the next five years to make trade between the two countries less dependent on foreign banks.

Lula, who heads a 300-strong delegation, also met with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on major issues.

Ahead of his trip to Iran, Lula met in Moscow with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Lula told reporters in the Russian capital that he was "optimistic" and hoped to be able to persuade Ahmadinejad to reach an agreement with the West.

"I must now use everything I have learned over my long political career to convince my friend Ahmadinejad to come to an agreement with the international community," Lula said.

Both Russia and the United States, however, remained skeptical that a deal would be brokered.

Medvedev said Lula's efforts had -- at best -- a 30 percent chance of succeeding. He added that his visit might be "the last chance" for an agreement before the UN Security Council imposes sanctions.

Sanctions Push

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, had said Washington doubts Tehran will provide any "serious response" to concerns over its nuclear program until the UN passes a fourth round of sanctions against Iran.

"Every step along the way has demonstrated clearly to the world that Iran is not participating in the international arena in the way that we had asked them to do and that they continued to pursue their nuclear program," Clinton told reporters on May 14.

The United States is pushing for a fourth round of punitive sanctions against Tehran, including measures targeting Iranian banks and shipping.

Since evidence of a clandestine Iranian nuclear program first emerged in 2003, negotiations with world powers and visits by UN inspectors have failed to persuade the United States and its allies that Iran is not pursuing a weapons capability. Iran says its nuclear program is solely to produce electricity.

Iran rejected an earlier UN proposal to enrich its uranium abroad, arguing that it was needed for a nuclear research reactor. The West fears Iran wants highly enriched uranium to make an atomic bomb, a charge Tehran vehemently denies.

Brazil and Turkey, nonpermanent members of the UN Security Council, have so far resisted U.S.-led efforts to push through a fourth set of sanctions against Iran over its failure to heed repeated ultimatums to stop enrichment activity.

with agency material