Iranian nuclear negotiator rejects IAEA proposal on uranium transfer

Visiting Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said Monday that Iran cannot accept a U.N.-brokered proposal to transfer the bulk of its low-enriched uranium out of Iran with the aim of converting it into fuel for use in the country's medical research reactor amid political pressure from the United States and European countries.

''As long as a political touch is added to a business deal, we cannot accept it. In addition, strong pressure is being imposed,'' Jalili, the country's top nuclear negotiator, told Kyodo News during an interview in Tokyo. Rejection of the proposal may lead to further sanctions on the country.

Jalili, who is secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, also indicated that the amount of uranium that the U.N. nuclear watchdog has proposed to transfer is too large and that Iran wants the fuel to be provided ''at the same time'' the uranium is transferred out of Iran.

The proposal by the International Atomic Energy Agency requires Iran to ship out 1.2 tons of its low-enriched uranium, which is believed to be an amount potentially capable of creating one nuclear bomb.

But at the same time, he said Iran will ''submit to negotiations'' if its argument is accepted.

Earlier in the day, Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada expressed his ''strong concerns'' to Jalili over the current situation regarding Iran's nuclear program and said that ''it is extremely regrettable that a dispute'' has erupted over the IAEA's proposal, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said.

Jalili stressed to Okada that Iran has accepted inspections by the IAEA and no evidence has emerged that the country's nuclear program is being used for military purposes, according to the official.

At a press conference held later at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, Jalili said that ''using nuclear energy is the right of every nation'' and that any deviation from peaceful use of nuclear power is ''not acceptable for anyone.''

He underscored that Iran has simply been exercising its right as a member of the IAEA and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and that it is fulfilling its commitments and obligations as a member.

As Jalili is planning to visit the western Japanese city of Hiroshima, which suffered an atomic bombing during World War II, Okada also said during his talks with Jalili, ''I hope you will see how a nuclear weapon can bring about a tragic outcome.''

Jalili's visit to Japan from Sunday to Thursday comes amid a tense standoff over Iran's nuclear program.

The United States, which suspects that Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons, reaffirmed earlier this month that Iran has until the end of the year to accept the international agreement for its uranium enrichment program before the United States and its allies consider taking further action against the already heavily sanctioned nation.

In terms of bilateral relations with Japan, Jalili told the press conference, ''I had very good talks with the foreign minister'' and ''cooperation between the two countries can have very good effects at the regional and international levels.''

''We have a good potential to expand such a relationship,'' he said, stressing that international relations must be based on ''peace, prosperity, and justice'' as well as ''mutual respect.''

(Distributed by Kyodo News on Dec. 22, 2009)