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News Wrap: Iran May Not Send Uranium Abroad

October 29, 2009 at 12:00 AM EDT
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In other news, Iran gave no indication it will agree to a U.N. plan to ship most of its nuclear fuel abroad for enrichment, and President Obama traveled to the military post at Dover, Del. to honor 18 American killed in Afghanistan earlier this week.
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JIM LEHRER: In other news today: Iran gave a formal answer to a draft agreement about its nuclear program. But there was no indication of a breakthrough.

NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman narrates our report.

KWAME HOLMAN: Iran gave no indication today it is ready to agree fully to the plan to ship most of its potential nuclear fuel overseas.

The proposal was drafted last week in talks between Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency, plus Iran, Russia, the U.S., and France. The U.S. and others want the Iranians to send 70 percent of their low-enriched uranium to Russia. That could delay any attempt by Iran to generate enough fuel for a nuclear weapon for at least a year.

In the meantime, the material processed in Russia would work in a research reactor, but not in weapons. But news accounts varied on whether Iran wants to keep all or some of its uranium, and enrich it there, under U.N. supervision.

In a speech, the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, insisted his government will not retreat on its right to develop nuclear power. But he said the international talks have shown progress.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, president, Iran: Once, they were saying that you should shut down the nuclear activities, but, today, they have expressed their readiness to cooperate with us in fuel exchange, developing nuclear technology, building plants and nuclear reactors. They have moved from confrontation to interaction.

KWAME HOLMAN: The response in Washington was cautious.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly:

IAN KELLY: There is complete unity among the three parties here — or the four parties, the U.S., France, Russia and the IAEA — that this is — this is a sound agreement, that it’s balanced and answers the — the needs and concerns of all parties. And, so, we will work with Dr. ElBaradei and see what — what kind of clarifications we get from the Iranians.

KWAME HOLMAN: And France said it wanted to see Iran respond clearly and positively.

JIM LEHRER: Iran has consistently denied its goal is to build nuclear weapons. It says it wants to develop commercial nuclear power to generate electricity.

President Obama made a surprise overnight trip to salute Americans killed in Afghanistan this week. In predawn darkness, he took part in receiving the remains of 18 troops and civilians at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

Mr. Obama saluted as the casket of Army Sgt. Dale Griffin passed by. Earlier this year, the president relaxed an 18-year ban on letting cameras cover the transfers.

And later today, at the White House, he spoke of the Dover visit.

U.S. PRESIDENTBARACK OBAMA: It was a sobering reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that our young men and women in uniform are engaging in every single day.

You know, the burden that both our troops and our families bear in any wartime situation is going to bear on how I see these conflicts. And it is something that I think about each and every day.

JIM LEHRER: The president is still considering whether to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. The Washington Post reported today he’s asked for information on which local Afghan leaders are most effective. Advisers said the information would help guide the decision on war strategy and troop numbers.

Iraq announced the arrests of 61 military and security officials today in the wake of last Sunday’s bombings in Baghdad. Suicide car bombers killed 155 Iraqis and wounded hundreds more. The attackers made it through a series of security checkpoints, and that provoked public outrage. Those arrested were accused of negligence or involvement in the bombings.

It was another long day in the Western Plains of the U.S., as an early season storm dumped more snow. Parts of Colorado and other states were buried under three feet of snow, forcing roads and schools to close. Near Denver, hundreds of flights were canceled at the city’s International Airport, as crews worked to clear runways. More snow was expected by nightfall.