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TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has not yet given its response to a U.N.-drafted nuclear fuel deal and is ready for more talks based on "economic and technical concerns," official news agency IRNA quoted an informed source as saying Friday.
IRNA also reported that Iran's main proviso regarding the plan was the simultaneous exchange of Tehran's low-enriched uranium (LEU) for more refined nuclear fuel from abroad for use in a Tehran research reactor.
Iran would not compromise on this point, IRNA said. The proviso is a likely non-starter for the West.
The report looked likely to add to Western suspicions that Tehran is seeking to buy time while it presses on with its disputed nuclear program.
Apparently referring to a message delivered by Tehran to the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on Thursday, IRNA quoted its source as saying, "The Islamic Republic of Iran has announced its positive viewpoint towards the talks and said that it is ready to continue the talks over the U.N.-drafted deal based upon its economic and technical concerns."
Tehran's message to the IAEA Thursday was not an answer to the draft deal, IRNA reported the source saying.
The source added that "even if a next round of talks was held Iran would announce its opinion and not an answer."
The IAEA draft pact calls for Iran to transfer about 75 percent of its known 1.5 tonnes of LEU to Russia for further enrichment by the end of this year, then to France for conversion into fuel plates for a Tehran reactor that produces radio-isotopes for cancer treatment.
Diplomats said Friday Iran has told the IAEA it wants fresh nuclear fuel for a reactor in Tehran before it agrees to ship most of its enriched uranium stocks to Russia and France.
According to Iranian media, Tehran wants the LEU to be shipped out in small, staggered portions, not all in one go as the draft text stipulates. Iran also wants to import fuel for the reactor at the same time as sending material out.
This would undo key aspects of the deal for big powers who want to minimise Iran's potential to build atom bombs from its growing stockpile of LEU. Iran says its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity.
The IRNA report said, "It is said that Iran's main red line in the future talks would be the mutual and simultaneous exchange of the 5 percent and 20 percent (enriched) fuel and that it will absolutely not compromise on this condition."
(Reporting by Reza Derakhshi in Tehran and Firouz Sedarat in Dubai; Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Reuters