Mohamed ElBaradei says Iran nuclear deal still possible
An Iran nuclear deal could be secured by year's end, UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei said Friday. Iran rejected the current deal Wednesday, but left room for a compromise.
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"I believe that frankly the ball is very much in the Iranian court," said Mohammed ElBaradei, the outgoing head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). "I hope that they will not miss this unique and fleeting opportunity.... I hope that we will get an agreement by the end of the year."
Though the IAEA has not received a rejection in writing, officials in Tehran have issued a raft of sometimes contradictory statements that they do not like the original offer, which would ship out of Iran the bulk of the country's low-enriched uranium (LEU) in exchange for higher-enriched nuclear fuel it needs for a research reactor.
"It does look at this stage as though, if [the deal] is not dead, it's in the very last breaths of life," says Mark Fitzpatrick, a nuclear nonproliferation expert at the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS).
"So far I haven't seen anything that Iran has suggested that is acceptable," says Mr. Fitzpatrick, contacted by telephone in Beijing. "For the US, for the West in general, the bottom line is that the bulk of Iranian LEU leaves Iranian soil, so it cannot be immediately put to weapons use."
Iran is already under three sets of UN Security Council sanctions that demand it halt its enrichment activities.
Iran hamstrung by internal divisions
Iran first tentatively agreed to the deal in Geneva on Oct. 1. But the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – who was declared reelected in a disputed vote this past June – came under fierce attack inside Iran from both fellow conservatives and opposition leaders for "giving away" the first fruit of Iran's nuclear program.
Iran's Islamic system of rule has been hamstrung by internal divisions and continued fallout from the aftermath of what officials admit was the most serious crisis faced by the Islamic Republic in the 30 years since the 1979 revolution.
Public statements on the all-important nuclear issue seem to bear that out. On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki appeared to reject the offer, though he was quoted only by a semi-official news agency.