Iran proposes enriching uranium with France, news agency reports

Publish date: October 3, 2006

Iran’s deputy atomic energy chief Mohammad Saidi made an overture to France to jointly produce uranium there, a suggestion that Russia had made Tehran last year only to be rebuffed by Iranian Presidential Administration, the newswire France Info reported.

Officials in France – which is one of the major European players that is trying to convince Iran to give up its uranium enrichment programme for fear that the Islamic Republic may be pursuing a nuclear weapon – was reported to have been taken completely off guard by the proposal.

French officials further stated that there are absolutely no negotiations going on between Paris and Tehran to forward such a project. France is home to the international nuclear energy and reprocessing giants Areva and Eurodif, both of which have the capability of enriching uranium for Iran.

France has the capacity
Areva is owned by the French government, and Eurodif is a private concern which has had experience with Iran’s nuclear programme in the past. According to Iranian officials, Eurodif has in its possession some 50 tonnes of uranium hexafluoride that belongs to the Islamic Republic. Uranium hexafluoride is a crucial raw material in uranium enrichment.

“We had an idea that might help us reach a decision,” French Info quoted Saidi as saying. “We propose the French create with Iran an consortium for uranium enrichment. Therefore France, though its companies Eurodif and Areva can realistically control enrichment activities.”

Neither company, according to the Russian news website had any comment on the Iranian proposal.

Fog surrounds the timing of Saidi’s interview further reported that it was unclear from the French Info dispatch when the interview with Saidi had occurred –which casts doubt on the entire report. But the Associated Press presented some evidence in another report suggesting that the interview had occurred recently, as Saidi’s remarks seem to be aimed at mollifying the stand off between the West and Tehran over Iran’s nuclear programme.

International ‘uranium bank’ idea already under IAEA consideration

The idea of an international uranium consortium that would supply and reprocess uranium nuclear fuel was already recently tabled by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) two weeks ago. Under the number of schemes to create this ‘uranium bank” that are currently under discussion, Iran would draw fuel for its soon-to-go-on line reactor at Bushehr from the potential international uranium stockpile.

As part of its efforts as a UN Security Council member, Russia on November 3rd 2005 tabled the suggestion that it would take care of all of Iran’s uranium needs – from enrichment to reprocessing – on Russia soil. This move, it was hoped, would defuse the tensions between Iran and the West, which fears Iran’s enrichment capabilities are a precursor to a full blown weapons programme – something Iran has repeatedly denied.

But on November 11th, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, Iranian Atomic Energy Organization head and former Vice President under the Khatami regime, rebuffed Russia’s offer.

Russia remains engaged in the diplomatic imbroglio to cease Iran’s enrichment programme or make it face Security Council sanctions. But unlike the United States and some of its European partners, Russia is holding out for more negotiations with Tehran.

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