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Iran nuclear fuel swap deal: What it involves, and how it will affect US push for sanctions

The Iran nuclear fuel swap deal, brokered by Turkey and Brazil, was cast by many as a confidence-building measure. But Iran would still continue enriching uranium, in defiance of the UN Security Council.

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Germany was quick to point out that the deal did not address Security Council demands that Iran stop enrichment, or unresolved questions about possible nuclear weapons efforts. Israel said Brazil and Turkey – whose leaders brokered the deal after months of high-level diplomacy – had been “manipulated” by Iran.

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Mr. Chubin, author of the book Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions, said that even though Iran will continue to enrich uranium under the deal, it buys time for a more complete resolution.

“They are continuing enrichment – and that defies the Security Council still – but what they are doing as a confidence-building measure is getting rid of some of that pile of fissile material they have,” says Mr. Chubin, author of the book Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions. “So in a sense it delays the accumulation of their fissile stockpile that could be used for a weapon.”

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said on state-run PressTV that that was Iran's view.

“In fact this shows the world [Iran] is not after nuclear weapons, and is after peaceful nuclear science,” he said. “Such an interaction must replace a confrontational approach.”

US officials wanted more enriched uranium shipped

Prior to the talks, top American officials predicted that Brazil and Turkey would fail to broker a deal that was first put to Iran in October.

US diplomats have stated that the 1,200 kg stipulated in that offer – 70 percent of Iran’s LEU stock at the time – would need to be raised to be acceptable, because Iran has since continued to enrich uranium. The new fuel swap deal would remove roughly 55 to 60 percent of Iran’s LEU.

Iran has for months waffled on the deal and wanted changes that would have left the bulk of its enriched uranium in Iran, or required a simultaneous swap on Iranian territory – all proposals dismissed by the US and several Western leaders.

Stipulations of the deal

A 10-point joint declaration states that Iran will inform the IAEA of the deal within a week, and that if what it called the “Vienna Group” – the US, Russia, France, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – accept the terms, then details will be worked out for 1,200 kgs of Iranian LEU to be transferred to Turkey.

The material would stay in Turkey under IAEA and Iranian monitoring, and “will continue to be the property of Iran,” the deal states. Within a year, Iran would receive 120 kg of fuel enriched to 20 percent necessary for a decades-old research reactor in Tehran that produces medical isotopes. The deal agreed in Tehran specifies that if it is "not respected," then "Turkey, upon the request of Iran, will return swiftly and unconditionally Iran's LEU to Iran."