Iranian officials said that even if the country agreed to a U.N.-sponsored proposal, it would likely not ship its supply en masse.
The French government, which helped negotiate the deal, countered that postponing shipments is unacceptable — the uranium must be sent in bulk before the end of the year.
“It cannot take forever,” said French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner. “We wait for answers.”
The U.N. proposal, formalized last week following talks between Iran and the United States, France and Russia, calls for Iran to ship 70 percent of its uranium abroad for further enrichment, according to the Associated Press. It is intended to delay Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons and would allow for diplomatic solutions to the nuclear standoff that started late this summer, said the New York Times.
But Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Iranian Parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, said Tuesday that Iran preferred to buy processed nuclear fuel rather than ship its supply abroad for refinement, according to the Iranian Students News Agency.
While some Iranian officials fear that the U.N. is setting a trap intended to confiscate the country’s uranium supply, American officials worry that Iran is merely postponing the shipments in order to build a nuclear weapon.
Under the plan, Iran would send 2,650 pounds of uranium to Russia for processing. Russia would then send the enriched uranium to France where it would be made into isotopes for use in cancer diagnoses and treatment in a Tehran medical reactor, keeping the amount of uranium below the quantity needed to produce a nuclear weapon.
Iran will officially reply to the deal within 48 hours, said an Iranian official on Al-Alam, the country’s state-run Arabic channel, though U.N. inspectors have already started visiting a uranium enrichment site near the holy city of Qum, which was kept secret until September.
On Tuesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed to continue the country’s nuclear program and defended missing last week’s deadline to respond to the proposal. Russia also defended the country, urging patience from the West.
“In this month alone, concrete and potentially effective solutions have been found,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Rybakov said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “It can’t be ruled out that the process won’t continue with the same intensity, but everyone should arm themselves with as much patience as possible.”