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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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It was not clear in which country the material would actually be found, enriched to 20 percent and then turned into fuel rods, while Iran’s original LEU stayed under wraps in Turkey. In the original deal, those tasks were originally set for Russia and France, using Iran’s own material.

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The joint declaration also reaffirms Iran’s commitment to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and notes that, as a signatory, Iran should have access to all necessary nuclear technology.

The declaration says the fuel exchange is a “starting point” for further cooperation, and that the deal is an “opportunity now to begin a forward looking process that will create a positive, constructive, non-confrontational atmosphere.”

'Hard to get to sanctions' now – analyst

The deal was announced early Monday, after Mr. Da Silva’s meetings on Sunday with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s supreme religious leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei – who has final say on all matters of state in Iran.

State TV broadcast footage of the Brazilian leader with a notebook during his meeting with Iran’s Supreme Leader, as if adhering to a checklist. But it did not appear to be a jovial meeting, and state-run media outlets throughout the weekend downplayed any nuclear content to the meetings, portraying them instead as bilateral meetings to expand economic ties.

“It’s quite clever if Khamenei is giving Turkey and Brazil the nod, because the sort of strategic defiance by Turkey and Brazil of the US would be reinforced, and I think it will be very hard to get to the next step of sanctions, if there isn’t something we don’t know about the agreement,” says Chubin.

Brazil and Turkey – both non-permanent members of the UNSC, which have opposed sanctions – will argue that Iran has shown a willingness to find a negotiated solution, says Chubin. “And of course Russia and China will pile on, unless there is an obvious fault in the agreement.”

Brazilian and Turkish diplomats would not want a breakdown of the new deal, adds Chubin, and be forced to “come back and make fools of themselves.”

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