BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A Turkish-Brazilian deal to help Iran swap nuclear fuel cannot be considered a breakthrough unless it is fundamentally based on a fuel-swap proposal made by the IAEA last year, a senior EU diplomat said on Monday.
After talks with Brazil and Turkey, Iran announced on Monday it had struck a deal to exchange 1,200 kg (2,600 lb) of low-enriched uranium for higher-enriched nuclear fuel from abroad, which would be used in a medical research reactor.
The fuel swap would take place in Turkey, Iran said. Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said the deal meant there was no longer any justification for further U.N. sanctions against Iran and its nuclear enrichment programme.
The senior EU diplomat, who is involved in efforts to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions, said the deal would only carry weight if it was based on or fundamentally the same as a fuel-swap proposal put forward by the International Atomic Energy Agency seven months ago and which Iran has ignored.
“If they (Iran) are accepting what was originally proposed by the IAEA back in October, then fine, some progress might be possible,” the diplomat said.
“But if this is some new suggestion that goes in a different direction, then it would appear to be stalling... It would be quite wrong to present this as being important and a breakthrough (unless it is based on the IAEA proposal).”
Iran, Brazil and Turkey have provided few details about the deal they have signed apart from to say that the fuel swap could begin within a month, will take place in Turkey and will be under the supervision of the IAEA, a U.N.-backed agency.
The EU diplomat cast doubt on whether Turkey would be capable of providing Iran with the nuclear fuel rods it needs as part of the exchange — France, Russia and the United States are the chief providers of that technology.
The details of the deal must to be put to the IAEA in writing so that they can be fully assessed, he said, adding that efforts to agree a fourth round of U.N. sanctions on Iran’s nuclear programme would continue.
Iran says its nuclear programme is solely for civilian and energy purposes, but the United States and other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council believe Iran has ambitions to produce a nuclear bomb and are determined to stop that.
Editing by Dominic Evans