The prospects of finalizing the draft third party enrichment deal at this late hour, after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s acceptance was met with feigned outrage by Western powers, and after Iran has backed off that acceptance to a stance calling for direct exchange, seems slim to none. This does not, however, mean the prospect of third party enrichment itself is dead.
Rather, according to Iran’s Foreign Ministry, they have taken the advice of the IAEA and are now looking for some new third parties with which to reach a comparable enrichment deal.
The initial deal stalled over Iranian concerns of the use of France as a partner in the deal, as France previously reneged on a nuclear deal with Iran and there was concern that, if Iran shipped a large portion of its uranium stockpile abroad, it would simply disappear into France, with nary a trace but some harsh rhetoric from the Sarkozy government.
Western officials have not commented yet on Iran’s latest tack, but they will likely take a dim view of some other nuclear power doing the enrichment after spending months trying to convince the world that the “draft” agreement they submitted to the IAEA was an all-or-nothing proposition, which could never be revised or even clarified publicly.
Japan is seen as a likely partner in such an effort, however. The Japanese government is keen to see the situation resolved amicably, as they stand to lose greatly from rising anti-Iran sanctions. Iranian Parliament speaker Ali Larijani visited Japan late last month, and reportedly came out of it with an early proposal for Japan to enrich uranium for Iran’s medical research reactor.