Iran rejects demand to ship out uranium stockpiles

Iran rejects demand to ship out uranium stockpiles
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) are seated during a meeting of the foreign ministers representing the permanent five member countries of the United Nations Security Council, including Germany, at UN Headquarters in New York September 26, 2013.

DUBAI - Iran will not ship enriched uranium stockpiles out of the country, the Iranian deputy foreign minister said on Sunday, rejecting one key demand of world powers due to resume nuclear negotiations with Tehran this week.

Abbas Araqchi's comment may disappoint Western officials, who want Iran to ship out its stockpile of uranium enriched to a fissile concentration of 20 per cent, a short technical step away from weapons-grade material.

However, he signalled flexibility on other aspects of Iran's uranium enrichment.

"Of course we will negotiate regarding the form, amount, and various levels of (uranium) enrichment, but the shipping of materials out of the country is our red line," Araqchi was quoted as saying on Sunday on state television's website.

Araqchi will be part of the Iranian delegation at nuclear talks with six world powers that are due to start in Geneva on Tuesday.

He did not specify the 20 per cent material but his comments implied that Tehran might refuse this demand.

Since the Islamic Republic started producing 20-per cent enriched uranium in 2010 it has amassed more than the 240-250 kg of uranium gas needed for a bomb, which Israel has suggested it sees as a "red line" for possible military action against Iran.

But Iran has kept its 20-per cent stockpile below this figure by converting some of the gas into oxide powder for reactor fuel.

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