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Iran seeks to buy U.S. uranium

Expert sees request as ‘implied blackmail’

UNITED NATIONS – Iran is willing to have its nuclear experts meet with scientists from the U.S. and other world powers as a confidence-building measure aimed at resolving concerns about Tehran’s nuclear program, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday.

At international talks next week on its nuclear ambitions, Iran also will seek to purchase enriched uranium for medical purposes from the U.S., Ahmadinejad told reporters and editors from Newsweek and the Washington Post. Agreement by the Americans, he suggested, would demonstrate that the Obama administration is serious about engagement, while rejection might give Iran an excuse to further enrich its stock of uranium.

“These nuclear materials we are seeking to purchase are for medicinal purposes. … It is a humanitarian issue,” Ahmadinejad said in the interview. “I think this is a very solid proposal which gives a good opportunity for a start” to build trust between the two countries and “engage in cooperation.”

Ahmadinejad made his proposal against the backdrop of increasingly urgent efforts by the United States and other major powers to prod Iran to fully disclose its nuclear program or face stricter sanctions.

On Oct. 1, a senior Iranian diplomat will meet counterparts from the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany in Geneva to discuss the nuclear program, and Ahmadinejad said he will bring the new proposal. In a meeting Wednesday evening at the United Nations, foreign ministers and senior officials from the six countries met to plot strategy.

“We expect a serious response from Iran” and will decide on “next steps” if it is not forthcoming, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said in a statement approved by the six nations.

David Albright, a former weapons inspector who is president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, said Iran’s latest move is “clever” because there is “implied blackmail” behind the idea. If the material is not supplied, Iran could announce that it has no choice but to make the material, which is nearly 20 percent enriched; the material Iran is now producing is 3 percent to 5 percent enriched and suitable only for energy purposes. Allowing Iran to purchase the new material would require a waiver of international sanctions.

While weapons-grade material is more than 90 percent enriched, making material for the medical reactor could put Iran on the next step to reaching that level.


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