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Iran's offer on nuclear deal: genuine or diplomatic wedge?

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Iran’s enriched uranium could be processed outside the country, a deal Iran once rejected. The US and other countries are wary of the offer as they consider new sanctions.

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“They may be saying ‘You have to talk to us’ to the Security Council members, but their target audience for this show of authority may be at home,” Brumberg says.

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President Ahmadinejad’s proposal for a uranium swap came with few specifics, so it remains unclear how close the Iranian plan comes to that of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA called for removing 70 percent of Iran’s low-enriched uranium to France and Russia, where it would be processed and returned a year later as fuel rods for a research reactor.

The idea was largely designed to reduce tensions over Iran’s nuclear program for a year of negotiations. But Ahmadinejad spoke of a plan under which the reprocessed uranium would return within four or five months.

IAEA plan could work

US officials responded to Ahmadinejad by saying there is no need for Iran to come up with a new plan, and that all it has to do is accept the IAEA plan of last October. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Wednesday at a press conference in Paris with his Chinese
counterpart that he was “perplexed and even a bit pessimistic” about Ahmadinejad’s proposal, which he interpreted as “buying time.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jieche said simply that China wants a consensus on the Iran nuclear issue “as soon as possible.”

With the French taking over the presidency of the UN Security Council this month, the US was hoping to move ahead on a new set of sanctions. In recent months, France has been more focused on new sanctions than the US has, given President Obama’s decision to give Iran through the end of last year to respond to his call for dialogue.

But once Obama’s deadline passed with no response, the US shifted to a posture of seeking new sanctions.

At a briefing with journalists Tuesday, State Department spokesman Phillip Crowley said that “what explains that new tone is precisely where we are in the process. As the Secretary [of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton,] said last week in London, we have to look more significantly at the pressure track because the engagement track has not yielded the results that we had hoped for.”

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