Tehran: The world’s leading countries have challenged Iran to hand over its enriched uranium stockpile, in return for easing sanctions that have affected the country’s economy severely.
At a meeting in Baghdad, an international contact group consisting of the Security Council’s five permanent members and Germany focused on a dispute that has threatened to cause a new war in the Middle East, and put forward a proposal designed as the first step towards restoring confidence in the supposedly peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.
Baroness Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief who chairs the contact group, proposed that Iran should stop producing uranium enriched to this level and hand over its existing stockpile and in return, Tehran would receive the fuel for its research reactor from other countries.
“We are putting proposals on the table that are also of interest to Iran. There are things we can do for Iran. We hope the Iranians will come back with a positive reaction to our proposals to deal with the concerns of the international community. The ball is in their court now,” The Telegraph quoted Lady Ashton’s spokesperson, as saying.
Diplomats said this idea led to a "detailed exchange" of views, but Iran’s chief negotiator Saeed Jalili was put on the spot by the move, as he did not offer a concrete response.
However, the talks are expected to continue today.
Diplomats stressed no further easing of sanctions would be offered until Iran had taken more steps as the proposals did not cover Iran’s current stockpile of some 5,500 kg of uranium that has been enriched to 3.5 percent purity. If uranium is processed to 90 percent, it reaches weapons-grade and Iran may use it to build a nuclear bomb.
First Published: Thursday, May 24, 2012, 16:30