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Tehran Nuclear Move 'Shows Bid To Close Atom Deal'

Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh (file photo)
VIENNA (Reuters) -- The Iranian president's announced readiness to send enriched uranium abroad signals a wish to cooperate for a deal with big powers to ease nuclear tension, Tehran's envoy to the UN atomic agency has said.

Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh told Reuters he had not notified the International Atomic Energy Agency of any new Iranian position on the IAEA-brokered proposal, stalled for months by disputes over where and how to carry it out.

Russia, France, and the United States, the other parties to the plan under which Iran would swap potential atom bomb material for fuel for nuclear medicine, want Tehran to inform the IAEA of Mahmud Ahmadinejad's gesture to prove he is serious.

Ahmadinejad said on February 2 that Iran was now prepared to send low-enriched uranium (LEU) abroad before getting reactor fuel back. Before, Tehran insisted on small swaps on its own soil.

That would defeat the draft plan's purpose of reducing Iran's total LEU reserve below the quantity required to set off an atomic bomb, if it were refined to high purity.

"What my president said in fact shows that Iran has the political will to facilitate ... cooperation rather than confrontation, and now its up to the others to use this opportunity," Soltanieh said.

"His message is, in fact, a very positive, constructive message, testing the political and goodwill of others to shift gears from confrontation to cooperation."

Soltanieh said he had not conveyed Ahmadinejad's gesture to IAEA chief Yukiya Amano. Asked whether this would raise doubts whether Tehran had really shifted position, he said: "Please don't make a judgment." He declined to be specific.