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UN chief says Iran should accept uranium plan

world Updated: Oct 29, 2009 08:08 IST

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encouraged Iran to accept an UN-drafted plan to ship much of its uranium abroad for enrichment, saying it would be "an important confidence-building measure."

Iranian lawmaker Mohammad Karamirad said the government would formally respond today to the proposal to send enriched uranium out of the country for processing, according to the semiofficial ISNA news agency.

Iran's refusal to suspend uranium enrichment has led to three rounds of increasingly tough UN sanctions. Tehran insists its program is purely peaceful and defends the right to develop fuel for electricity-generating reactors.

Even as the Iranian government mulls the deal for shipping uranium abroad, it has made clear it will push ahead with its nuclear program and continue enriching uranium.

The plan that Tehran is considering was formalized by the United Nations last week after talks between Iran and the United States, Russia and France.

It calls for Iran to ship 70 percent of its low enriched uranium to Russia in one batch by the end of the year for further enrichment. It would then be sent to France to be made into isotopes for use in a Tehran research reactor.

The US and its allies back the deal because it would, at least temporarily, leave Iran's uranium stockpiles too low to build a nuclear weapon, which they suspect is Tehran's real goal.