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Iran offers negotiated solution as sanctions bite

The Iranian nuclear crisis intensifies.

As US-led economic sanctions tighten around its economy, the Iranian government is once again indicating its willingness to negotiate a compromise over its nuclear programme.

On 12 October, foreign ministry spokesperson Ramin Mehmanparast said: 'Iran is ready to show flexibility to remove concerns within a legal framework' - he added: 'but such measures should be reciprocal'. 

Mehmanparast said that Iran would cease 20% enrichment if it was provided with a guaranteed supply of 20%-enriched fuel rods for the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes. 

The fuel rods cannot be further enriched to create weapons-grade uranium, unlike Iran's stock of 20%-enriched uranium.

Fuel swap

Iran may be indicating that it would be prepared to carry out the fuel swap proposed by the US in 2009, exporting 20%-enriched uranium in return for a supply of 20%-enriched fuel rods.

Brazil and Turkey managed to persuade Iran to accept this swap in May 2010, following exactly the principles laid out in a letter from US president Barack Obama to Brazilian president Lula da Silva.

The US (and UK) then rejected the Brazil-Turkey-Iran agreement (see PN 2523-24), demonstrating their opposition to a negotiated solution to the nuclear crisis.

The fact that Iran is making offers in this area show how desperate the situation is.

Sanctions

The Iranian riyal has lost 50% of its value over the last year, prices for basic foods have more than doubled, and there are increasing shortages of medicine as US-imposed sanctions have cut oil income and reduced shipping.

On 3 October, there was a riot in a major bazaar in Tehran, triggered by high prices.

Like other democracy movement leaders, Iranian Nobel peace prize-winner Shirin Ebadi has opposed economic sanctions because 'they hurt the Iranian people.'

In July, International Civil Society Action Network published a report on sanctions on Iran, entitled What the Women Say.

Milan Rai, Peace News co-editor, writes about Iran for JNV.