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UN chief asks US to give Iran reactors
Updated: 2006-01-28 09:19

U.N. nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei on Friday called on the United States to provide Iran with nuclear reactors and urged Tehran to declare a moratorium on enriching uranium for at least eight years.

ElBaradei said that amount of time would enable the country to earn the confidence of the international community that it was really interested in nuclear energy — not nuclear weapons.

Iran provoked an international outcry on Jan. 10 when it ended a two-year freeze and resumed small-scale enrichment of uranium — a process that can be used to produce fuel for generating electricity or material for atomic bombs. To resume enrichment, Iran had to break the seals of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear monitoring body headed by ElBaradei.

Britain, France and Germany — who have been leading European Union efforts to get Iran to abandon uranium conversion and enrichment — succeeded in getting the IAEA's board to meet Feb. 2 to discuss action against Iran. The three countries — and United States — want Iran to be referred to the U.N. Security Council.

The Iranians argue that they need to develop an enrichment capability because they cannot be assured a guaranteed supply of fuel for a peaceful nuclear energy program, ElBaradei said at a panel at the World Economic Forum.

"I would separate the issues of using nuclear technology for energy and to produce weapons," he said. "I would call upon the United States to provide Iran with reactors, and I would call upon Iran to declare a moratorium on enrichment for at least eight or nine years" until the country can earn the global community's confidence.

On Thursday, ElBaradei said he was hopeful that a Russian proposal could help break the standoff over Iran's nuclear research and enrichment plans.

Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani said Friday that a plan to allow Iran to enrich its uranium in Russia was unacceptable in its present form but was worth taking further in negotiations.

"The capacity of Russia's proposal does not meet all the nuclear energy needs of Iran," Iranian state television quoted Larijani as saying.

However, Ivan Safranchuk, a Russian analyst, cautioned that Iran might be using the plan only to buy time as it fights to avoid potential U.N. sanctions.

Asked for his advice to Western officials, ElBaradei said: "You need to keep all options on the table."

But U.S. Sen. John McCain appeared to rule out negotiations.

"They're interested in acquiring weapons of mass destruction and dominating the Middle East," McCain, told a panel. "I don't know of any carrot that works."

Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, said in Washington that comments from Iran indicate that it appears "to be playing more games with the international community."

"We remain in discussions with our partners and others about the best way to send a clear message to the regime in Iran that it is unacceptable to have nuclear weapons," McClellan said.

Alyson Bailes, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Sweden, called for new technologies and advanced reactors that would be built to rule out the high enrichment of uranium.

ElBaradei did not elaborate on having the U.S. build reactors for Iran, but presumably this would enable Washington to build in safeguards to prevent Iran from getting weapons-grade uranium.

The IAEA chief backed the quest for new technologies, but more immediately he called for international control over all nuclear activities and the creation of a nuclear fuel bank to ensure supplies of uranium to all countries.

"We need to worry because there's a lot of material that easily go into nuclear weapons that is all over the place. We know that the technology on how to weaponize is out of the tube. We know that terrorists are highly sophisticated and are interested in acquiring nuclear weapons or nuclear material — either to steal one or to make a crude bomb," he said.

"We are running in a race against time," he said.

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