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Medvedev Warns Iran Deal May Not Be Enough

Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad flashing a victory sign at a Tehran signing ceremony Monday. Morteza Nikoubazl

President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday cautiously welcomed a uranium swap deal between Iran and Turkey, but warned that it may fail to fully satisfy the international community.

Iran agreed with mediators Brazil and Turkey on Monday that it would send some of its uranium abroad, abruptly ending its refusal to countenance such a deal just as the United Nations Security Council readied tougher sanctions.

In a sign of Western skepticism despite Iran’s apparent concessions to revive a UN-drafted fuel swap plan, Britain said work on further UN sanctions on Tehran must continue until it can assure the world that its nuclear program is peaceful.

Iran made clear that it had no intention of heeding demands to suspend sensitive nuclear activities, which the West suspects are aimed at making bombs, including work to enrich uranium to a level of 20 percent that it launched in February.

“There is no relation between the swap deal and our enrichment activities,” said Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.

Analysts said the agreement would allow Tehran to avert new tougher UN sanctions, split the major powers and help the leadership reassert its authority after months of unrest and opposition that followed the presidential election last June.

Medvedev said on a trip to Ukraine that it remained unclear how much uranium Iran would swap, and added that Iran's apparent intention to continue its own enrichment raises another big problem.

"A question is whether the amount of swap operations will be sufficient and satisfy all members of the international community," Medvedev said at a news conference after talks with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, adding that additional consultations were needed to determine that.

"A separate question is will Iran itself conduct enrichment," he said. "As far as I understand from some Iranian official statements, it will continue such work. In that case, the international community's concerns could remain."

Medvedev added that the agreement between Iran and Turkey must be welcomed as part of diplomatic efforts to settle the Iranian nuclear standoff.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad clinched the agreement after hours of talks in Tehran, Iranian state media reported.

Medvedev, who met with Lula in Moscow on Friday, had called the mediation offer by Brazil and Turkey, both nonpermanent Security Council members, the last chance to resolve the dispute and avoid a fourth round of UN sanctions.

Iran said it had agreed to transfer 1,200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey within a month in return for higher-enriched nuclear fuel for a medical research reactor.

No more than one year later, Iran will get 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium under an arrangement involving the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, as well as the United States, France and Russia.

Iran, which says its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes and not to make bombs as the West suspects, had earlier insisted that any such exchange must take place simultaneously and on its territory.

The deal enables Iran to meet Western terms without dealing directly with major powers. Erdogan, a moderate and popular Islamist leader who took a stand against Israel over the war on Gaza in 2008, is a much more palatable figure for the Iranian establishment to deal with and sell a deal at home.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Iran’s low-enriched uranium would be under IAEA supervision in Turkey. The IAEA would be notified within a week about the swap deal, he said.

Ahmadinejad called on six world powers to start new negotiations with his country.

“They should welcome the major event that took place in Tehran and distance themselves from the atmosphere of pressure and sanctions to create an opportunity for interaction and cooperation with Iran,” Ahmadinejad said.

A European Commission spokesman said the agreement might be a step in the right direction, but details needed to be seen.

Berlin and Paris also said they wanted more information before commenting, although the French Foreign Ministry added that the deal would not resolve core concerns. “Let us not deceive ourselves. A solution to the [fuel] question, if it happens, would do nothing to settle the problem posed by the Iranian nuclear program,” spokesman Bernard Valero said in a statement.

Junior British Foreign Minister Alistair Burt said Iran had an obligation to assure the international community of its peaceful intentions. “Until Iran takes concrete actions to meet those obligations, that work [on a new UN sanctions resolution] must continue,” he said in a statement.

But Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu hailed the deal as a “historic turning point.”

Erdogan said there was now no need for the world to consider any further sanctions against Iran, echoing a statement by Brazil.

“My expectation is that after this declaration there will not be a need for sanctions,” Erdogan told reporters in Baku, where he arrived for a state visit from Tehran.

There was no immediate comment from Washington, which has been leading a Western push to impose extra sanctions on Iran, seeking the backing of Russia and China.

Major world powers had urged Iran to accept a months-old IAEA plan to ship 1,200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium — enough for a single bomb if purified to a high enough level — abroad in exchange for fuel for a medical research reactor in Tehran.

The proposal, backed by the United States, Russia and France, was aimed at giving time for diplomatic talks with Iran.

Tehran agreed in principle to the deal in October but then demanded changes such as a simultaneous swap on Iranian soil, conditions that other parties in the deal said were unacceptable.

(Reuters, AP)

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