Brazil, Turkey try to hammer out 'last chance' Iran nuclear fuel swap deal
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan flew late Sunday to Tehran sounding bullish about a possible Iran nuclear fuel swap deal that could help Iran avoid another round of UN sanctions.
Nuclear summitry between Iran, Brazil, and Turkey got underway in Tehran on Sunday, with no final result from what has been cast – from Washington to Moscow – as a “last chance” for Iran to avoid another set of United Nations sanctions.Skip to next paragraph
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President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was welcomed with a brass band, hailed as a “brother” by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and had a rare audience with Iran’s supreme religious leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.
But even as Iranian state media made little mention of the nuclear issue – and cast the Brazilian leader’s visit as “mainly” about expanding Iran-Brazil ties – Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan flew late Sunday to Tehran.
Turkish officials, frustrated after months of fruitless high-level negotiations with the Iranians to broker a compromise deal, had earlier ruled out a visit by the Turkish leader unless “something concrete” would emerge.
Turkey had been mooted as a compromise site for a nuclear fuel swap, in which Iran would hand over the bulk of its homemade low-enriched uranium (LEU), to be made into fuel rods in Russia and France, as part of a US-backed United Nations “confidence building” measure.
“I am going to Iran because a clause will be added to the proposal which says the swap will take place in Turkey,” Mr. Erdogan said before leaving, according to Turkey's Anatolian news agency. “We will have the opportunity to start the process of the swap. I guarantee that we will find the opportunity to overcome these problems, God willing.”
In Tehran, Mr. da Silva told reporters that “the level of hope (of reaching a deal) has increased.”
Pushed by the US and some European countries, the UN Security Council is expected to vote within weeks, perhaps days, on a fourth set of sanctions against Iran.
Previous Security Council resolutions require Iran to stop enriching uranium while it resolves outstanding questions about possible design efforts for a nuclear bomb – projects that Iran denies.
Brazil and Turkey both oppose sanctions, and currently hold non-permanent Security Council seats.
Washington has called the Brazilian’s visit the “last shot” to avoid sanctions; Russian President Dmitry Mevedev termed it the “last chance” for Iran.
“The president remains optimistic about the nuclear talks,” a member of the Brazilian delegation told Agence France-Presse. “There are still ongoing negotiations and we have to wait until the end of the talks tomorrow [Monday].”
Iran has been reluctant to accept a deal that is designed to leave too little LEU in Iran to make a single nuclear weapon – if it chose to enrich the uranium to far higher levels.