Iran defers decision on international offer to supply fuel for research reactor

By Glenn Kessler and Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 24, 2009

Iran on Friday deferred a decision on accepting an international offer to supply fuel to a nuclear research reactor, saying an answer would come next week on a deal that would greatly reduce the Islamic republic's stockpile of low-enriched uranium.

The United States, Russia and France -- the other parties in the arrangement -- announced that they had accepted a draft agreement negotiated earlier in the week at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

In talks on Oct. 1, Iran tentatively agreed to the arrangement, under which nearly 80 percent of its stockpile would go to Russia and France to be fashioned into fuel for a medical reactor. But Iranian officials have sent conflicting signals about the draft deal, culminating with Iran's announcement that it would not meet Friday's deadline to respond.

According to the IAEA, Iran said that "it is considering the proposal in depth and in a favorable light, but it needs time until the middle of next week to provide a response."

Iran has enough low-enriched uranium, in theory, to produce one nuclear weapon. If it agrees to the deal, most analysts estimate it would take nine to 12 months for Iran to again have enough uranium to be able to enrich it to weapons grade.

In a speech to students Friday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not directly mention the nuclear imbroglio but denounced "arrogant powers" that he said have no choice but to deal with Iran. "Today, the arrogant powers . . . have no option but to recognize the dignity of the Iranian nation," he said. "They have no option but to humble [themselves] before the greatness of the Iranian nation. . . . Let me tell you that they are not able to do anything against the Iranian nation. "

Erdbrink reported from Tehran.

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