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Iran Rejects Sending Uranium Abroad, Considers Swaps

Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran's foreign minister was quoted today as saying that Tehran would not send its enriched uranium abroad for further processing but would consider swapping it for nuclear fuel within its borders.

"Surely we will not send our 3.5 percent fuel abroad but can review swapping it simultaneously with nuclear fuel inside Iran," Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki told the ISNA students' news agency.

A draft deal brokered by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, calls on Iran to send some 75 percent of its low-enriched uranium to Russia and France to be turned into fuel for a Tehran medical research reactor.

The United States has rejected Iranian calls for amendments and further talks on the deal and U.S. President Barack Obama said time was running out for diplomacy to resolve a dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

The West fears Iran is trying to build bombs under cover of a civilian nuclear program. Iran says it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity.

Tehran has repeatedly said it preferred to buy reactor fuel from foreign suppliers rather than part with its low enriched uranium (LEU), which can be used for bombs if enriched further.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been trying to find possible compromises to rescue the deal, including Iran parking its LEU in a third country, pending delivery of reactor fuel.

Turkey says it would be willing to store Iran's enriched uranium.

Mottaki did not say what would happen to the low-enriched fuel it was prepared to swap, but authorities have said in the past that it could be stockpiled in Iran under IAEA supervision.