Iranian Speaker: We Have a Surplus of Uranium

The speaker of Iran's parliament tells AP the country has a surplus of enriched uranium, then the Iranian parliament denies the remarks.

Elad Benari ,

Ali Larijani, Speaker of the Iranian Parliame
Ali Larijani, Speaker of the Iranian Parliame

Iran's parliament denied on Wednesday remarks made by its speaker, according to which the country has a surplus of enriched uranium and plans to use this as a bargaining tool at nuclear talks.

The speaker, Ali Larijani, told The Associated Press in an interview the surplus uranium would be discussed with Western powers in the context of whether Iran will halt its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent.

“Through the process of negotiations, yes, things can be said and they can discuss this matter,” he told AP.

The 20-percent-enriched uranium is much closer to warhead-grade material than the level needed for energy-producing nuclear reactors, but Larijani said Iran needs the higher enrichment solely for energy, research and isotopes for medical treatments, not for nuclear weapons.

He said Iran produced the enriched uranium itself because the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency would not provide it.

“But we have some surplus, you know, the amount that we don't need. But over that we can have some discussions,” said Larijani.

According to BBC, however, Iranian MPs later said Larijani’s claims were "false and fundamentally inaccurate."

A statement carried by the Iranian news agency ICANA and quoted by the BBC said: "Parts of Dr. Larijani's interview with Associated Press, where it had been emphasized that Iran had more enriched uranium than it needed and intended to use that as a winning card in next week's negotiations in Geneva, are false and fundamentally inaccurate."

In a separate interview with CNN, Larijani said his country was serious about resolving the dispute over its nuclear program and is keen to do so  “in a short period of time.” 

“From Iran's side, I can say that we are ready,” he said.

“If the Americans and other countries say that Iran should not develop a nuclear bomb or should not move towards that, then we can clearly show and prove that. We have no such intention. So it can be resolved in a very short period of time,” he added.

Nonetheless, Larijani said, the West must accept Iran’s right to enrich nuclear fuel for civilian purposes, as allowed under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), to which Iran is a signatory.

Western nations have been saying they are waiting for the Iranian government to follow up on statements made by President Hassan Rouhani that his country wants an accord to end western doubts about Iran's nuclear drive.

European foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton - negotiating for the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and China - is to meet with Iranian negotiators in Geneva next Tuesday.

Western diplomats say this will be a first chance to test Iran's intentions. Rouhani said he wanted a deal within a year. U.S. President Barack Obama has insisted though that Iran must follow up with concrete actions.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Iran has prepared a set of proposals that it will take to a meeting in Geneva next week as its bargaining chip to see crippling sanctions lifted from the country.

As an opening position in negotiations with the P5+1 group, the newspaper has said Tehran will offer to stop enriching uranium to levels of 20% purity, a level considered close  to that needed to make nuclear weapons.