Iran Agrees to Ship Its Nuclear Fuel to Turkey in Effort to Avoid U.N. Sanctions

By Patrick Goodenough | May 17, 2010 | 4:22 AM EDT

: As the leaders of Brazil, Iran and Turkey look on, their respective foreign ministers Celso Amorim, left, Manouchehr Mottaki, center, and Ahmet Davutoglu, right, sign a nuclear fuel swap agreement in Tehran, Iran, Monday, May 17, 2010. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

( – As Brazil and Turkey engineered the latest in a series of international initiatives aimed at ending the Iranian nuclear standoff, some of the developing world’s most powerful nations were rallying around Tehran Monday, in a fresh challenge to the Obama administration’s claims to have achieved a unified international stance against Iran.
A summit of the so-called G15 group was expected to release a statement drafted earlier by foreign ministers voicing support for Iran and opposing U.N. Security Council attempts to impose more sanctions over the nuclear dispute.
Among those in the group of key developing nations are India, Indonesia, Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico and Nigeria. The latter three also are currently among the 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council.
The G15 grew out of a Non-Aligned Movement summit in 1989, with a focus on economic cooperation among leading members of what has become known as the “global south.” Now numbering 18, its ranks include some of the most influential countries in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
A top Iranian lawmaker, chairman of the parliament’s security and foreign policy committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi, told Iranian media the group’s Tehran summit refuted the West’s contention that Iran is isolated.
The G15 gathering comes amid a flurry of diplomacy, with visiting Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and the government of Turkey – another non-permanent Security Council member – leading efforts to head off the sanctions drive.
Marathon talks in Tehran Sunday between Da Silva and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad produced an agreement, signed on Monday, under which Iran would send 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Turkey, to be exchanged for nuclear fuel enriched to a higher level for use in its research reactor.
The agreement aims to ease international concerns that Iran is using its program as a cover for attempts to develop a nuclear weapon capability.
Last year the U.S. and other leading powers proposed a fuel-swap deal involving Russia and France, but Iran rejected various conditions, putting forward counterproposals that were unacceptable to the West.
Coming after a long series of delays, defiance and ignored ultimatums and deadlines, the failed initiative laid the foundations for a new sanctions push at the Security Council, where painstaking negotiations have been underway for weeks.
Da Silva went to Tehran with the aim of securing a last-ditch agreement to resolve the nuclear standoff. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan flew in at short notice late Sunday to join the talks.
The Brazilian-Turkish initiative, along with the arrival of G15 delegations for Monday’s summit, is a boost for Iran as it seeks to disprove that it is increasingly isolated, as Washington claims.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, meeting with Da Silva on Sunday, hailed what he called “the formation of closer ties between independent states.” State television quoted him as saying that “domineering powers headed by America are unhappy” about such moves.
Iranian officials in recent weeks have ramped diplomatic efforts aimed at disrupting the Security Council effort, reaching out to a number of non-permanent council members in particular.
Before the Brazilian’s visit, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced the view that Iran’s aim through its diplomatic engagement was to avert sanctions but without acting to addressing the concerns over its nuclear program.
On Friday, Clinton did not sound hopeful that the visit would achieve a meaningful breakthrough.
“I have told my counterparts in many capitals around the world that I believe that we will not get any serious response out of the Iranians until after the Security Council acts,” she said in Washington.
Clinton was speaking alongside the new British Foreign Secretary William Hague, and used the opportunity to underline the international unity which the administration sees on the Iran issue.
She said the Security Council has moved in the direction of reaffirming its authority, “of putting some real teeth into the sanctions, of uniting the world in a way that will send an unequivocal message to the Iranian leadership.”
Permanent Security Council members China and Russia, both leery on sanctions, have agreed to join efforts to draft a resolution. The two countries signed up to three previous resolutions imposing sanctions against Iran, but only after diluting them during negotiations.
Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow