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US pushes Iran sanctions over Brazilian-Turkish uranium swap

The Brazilian-Turkish deal does nothing to address concerns about Iran’s continuing enrichment of uranium, US officials said Friday. The US believes Iran is using the swap as a tactic to delay a UN sanctions resolution.

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Friday’s conference call appeared to be an attempt to answer questions that have swirled around the diplomacy behind the Brazilian-Turkish agreement – questions that have at least slowed progress towards a full Security Council vote on the proposed resolution. Both Brazil and Turkey are current non-permanent members of the Security Council, but have refused to join in council discussions of the resolution.

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With the support of the council’s five permanent members seemingly assured, the resolution should have no trouble reaching the nine votes necessary for passage from the 15-member council, UN diplomats say. But council members prefer to reach unanimity, and at least two “no” votes from Turkey and Brazil (Lebanon is also a non-permanent member) could dilute the resolution’s message value to Tehran.

One of the issues roiling the diplomatic waters is a letter President Obama sent to Brazilian President Joao Lula da Silva in mid-April taking up US concerns about Iran and responding to Brazil’s questions about US requirements for a swap deal (The US, along with Russia and France, had put a similar deal to Tehran in October, though Tehran never formally accepted it).

Brazilian officials now claim that the tripartite deal reached earlier this month met all of the demands Obama expressed in the letter.

But US officials say Obama’s letter was never meant to be a full presentation of US concerns about Iran. Nor was it meant to be a listing of US demands for a swap deal, they add – especially since the US had lost interest in such a deal, given that Iran had continued to enrich uranium since the October deal fell through and to increase the size of its stockpile.

“We weren’t asking Brazil and Turkey to go out and negotiate on our behalf,” one of the US officials on the conference call said. “We were reacting to some of the ideas they had put before us.…We didn’t feel we needed to be comprehensive.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will take up the issue when she meets with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu next week. But US officials say that while the US “appreciates” the two countries’ efforts to encourage Iran to cooperate with the international community, they also say the US believes Iran is using the swap deal as a “tactic” to “delay the momentum towards a sanctions resolution.”

Related:

As sanctions loom, is Iran sending peace signals to the US?

Tehran details Iran nuclear deal amid debate over UN sanctions

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