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Iran calls for review of rejected nuclear plan

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Iran said today it wants a technical panel to review a U.N.-backed plan that envisages sending most of its uranium stockpile to Russia for enrichment, limiting the country’s ability to make a nuclear weapon.

The statement could be seen as a softening of Iran’s stand after senior Iranian lawmakers rejected the plan on Saturday. Earlier last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also said his government will persist with its nuclear program despite international concerns.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters in Kuala Lumpur today that Iran conveyed its stand to the International Atomic Energy Agency two days ago.

The U.N.-brokered plan would require Iran to send about 2,600 pounds – or 70 percent of its low-grade uranium stockpile – to Russia in one batch by year’s end for processing. Subsequently, France would convert the uranium into fuel rods that would be returned to Iran for use in a reactor in Tehran that produces medical isotopes.

“We have considered these proposals. We have some technical and economic considerations on that. Two days ago, we passed our views and observations to the IAEA, so it is very much possible to establish a technical commission in order to review and reconsider all these issues,” Mottaki said.

If Iran accepts the U.N.-backed plan, it would not be able to replenish its stockpile to levels that would yield enough enriched uranium for further enrichment into weapons-grade material for about a year.

Since its clandestine enrichment program was revealed seven years ago, Iran has amassed more than 3,300 pounds of low-enriched uranium at its cavernous underground facility at Natanz.

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