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October 24, 2009

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Iran stalls UN uranium enrichment plan

IRAN yesterday failed to accept a United Nations-drafted plan that would ship most of the country's uranium abroad for enrichment, saying instead it would prefer to buy the nuclear fuel it needs for a reactor that makes medical isotopes.

The response will come as a disappointment to the United States, Russia and France, which endorsed the UN plan yesterday they drafted in discussions with Iran earlier in the week.

The agreement was meant to ease Western fears about Iran's potential to make a nuclear weapon.

While Iran did not reject the plan outright, state TV said that Tehran was waiting for a response to its own proposal to buy nuclear fuel rather than ship low-enriched uranium to Russia for further enrichment.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran is waiting for a constructive and confidence building response to the clear proposal of buying fuel for the Tehran research reactor," state TV quoted an unnamed source close to Iran's negotiating team as saying yesterday.

The country is currently enriching uranium to a 3.5 percent level for a nuclear power plant it is planning to build in southwestern Iran. Its officials have said it is more economical to purchase the more highly-enriched uranium.

The Vienna-brokered plan would have required Iran to send 1.2 tons of low-enriched uranium -- around 70 percent of its stockpile -- to Russia in one batch by the end of the year.


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