ISTANBUL: Iran’s nuclear deal with Brazil and Turkey does not go far enough but at least it served to clarify that Tehran intends to continue enriching uranium, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said.
Kouchner, who met with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul Saturday, said he received a detailed account of the 18-hour nuclear talks in Tehran last week involving Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and their delegations.
The three-way negotiations were seen by the West as a last-ditch effort for Tehran to avoid proposed UN sanctions over its insistence on enriching uranium to 20 percent purity.
The talks concluded with an Iranian agreement to ship about half of its low-grade uranium to Turkey in return for enriched uranium from the West to fuel a Tehran reactor.
But Kouchner noted that Iran was still courting sanctions because it had not pledged to stop enrichment.
"I cannot but note that shortly after … they signed, there was the Iranian declaration on the continuation of enrichment," Kouchner told reporters in Istanbul.
He said the agreement had "clarified a little" Iran’s position on the nuclear issue.
Hours after the deal was sealed on May 17, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters: "Of course, the 20 percent enrichment will continue in our own country."
Iran drew international condemnation in February after it started enriching uranium to 20 percent, the purity needed to fuel a Tehran research reactor.
Enrichment lies at the center of fears about Iran’s nuclear program, because highly enriched uranium of over 90 percent purity can be used to make an atom bomb.
A French source said that by confirming it would continue enrichment, Iran had shown a deeply contrary logic with its proclaimed will of restoring international confidence through signing the three-way agreement.
Kouchner praised Turkey and Brazil for clarifying the nuclear situation, but said it was just "a partial answer" to demands by the International Atomic Energy Agency for Iran to halt enrichment to 20 percent purity.
Washington has submitted a UN resolution calling for a new round of sanctions against Iran, describing the fuel swap deal as insufficient.
"Whether (Brazil and Turkey) were right or wrong… history will not show that (the deal) should have been avoided… it will go down in history that they tried," Kouchner told a media conference in Istanbul.
"Does this prevent the Security Council resolution, I don’t think so. Does it speed it up? Maybe. But I am sure of one thing: it clarifies it (the Iranian position) a little," he added.
After months of diplomacy, the United States managed last week to get China and Russia — in addition to Britain and France — to endorse the draft UN Security Council resolution for a fourth round of sanctions against Iran.