Iran, in discussion with Brazil and Turkey, has accepted a proposal in which it ships low enriched uranium out of Iran in return for fuel rods for its Tehran Research Reactor.
The plan is similar to a proposal offered to Iran by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, last October, which had the support of France, Russia and the U.S., and was backed by the other permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany – the P5+1.
But the context has changed. Today is not October 2009. In October, Iran agreed to that proposal in principle, but backed away from the agreement, tried to renegotiate the conditions, never formally accepted the proposal, increased its uranium enrichment to 20% -- moving closer to weapons-grade uranium, and refused to follow-through and meet with the P5+1 to discuss its nuclear program.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs acknowledged the efforts made by Turkey and Brazil. But he also made clear that Iran's refusal to address the fundamental concerns about its nuclear program remains the primary focus of the international community and the basis for continuing to pursue UN sanctions.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said it would be a useful development if Iran shipped a portion of its enriched uranium out of the country. But he reiterated that the present context has changed from October 2009 because of Iran's own actions.
Iran has repeated its intention to continue enriching uranium to 20 percent, in defiance of several U.N. Security Council resolutions, unraveling the confidence- building basis for the IAEA's proposal on the Tehran Research Reactor. Although Iran claims that it is willing to meet with members of the P5+1, Iran has failed to engage the European Union to arrange a meeting on its nuclear program.
The burden, he said, is on Iran: "Iran has to come forward and indicate that it is prepared to cooperate constructively with the IAEA. Iran has to come forward ultimately and indicate that it is willing, per UN Security Council resolutions, to suspend its enrichment program, while we work with Iran on how it can pursue its fundamental right to civilian nuclear energy."
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the United States will continue to work with international partners and through the Security Council "to make it clear to the Iranian government that it must demonstrate through deeds – and not simply words – its willingness to live up to its international obligations or face consequences, including sanctions."