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U.S. pushes for answers over Iran nuclear counter-offer

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a U.N. meeting in New York on September 25.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a U.N. meeting in New York on September 25.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • U.S. seeks clarification of Iran's counter-offer over uranium
  • U.S. officials: Iran proposes uranium be enriched on Iranian soil by third country
  • Iran is thought to be reluctant to ship its uranium to Russia
  • Ahmadinejad has said Iran ready to talk with the U.S., state-run Press TV says
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States on Friday sought clarification from Iran in response to its counter-offer involving shipping low-enriched uranium for refining abroad, senior administration officials said.

The apparent Iranian refusal of a nuclear proposal centers on Iran not wanting to send its uranium to Russia, as stated in a document agreed on earlier this month at the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria.

Iranian negotiators had tentatively agreed to the proposal last week.

Tehran is proposing instead that its uranium be enriched on Iranian soil by a third country, under IAEA supervision, Obama administration officials said. Another possibility suggested by Iran is to ship out the uranium in several shipments, not in one bulk stockpile.

The officials said the Iranians also want to have talks with the United States about playing a role to ensure the technical safety of the reactor, presumably a way to draw the White House into bilateral talks.

The officials did not regard Iran's counter-offer as formal because it was delivered orally by the Iranian delegate in Vienna.

Speaking in Pakistan, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said leading powers that have been involved in the negotiations -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- should refrain from immediately judging the status of nuclear talks.

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Clinton told CNN that Western officials were working to determine what the Iranians are willing to do -- whether Tehran's decision is final or an interim statement.

Iran sent its response Thursday to the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

The agreement was designed to reduce the amount of material Iran has to possibly make a nuclear bomb. The United States and its allies fear that Tehran's goal is to make a bomb, which Iran denies.

In September Iran revealed the existence of a previously unknown nuclear plant near the city of Qom.

The IAEA this month sent a team of inspectors for a four-day visit to that facility. Iran's state-run Press TV reported that the inspectors "have expressed satisfaction with their mission."

The proposal was drafted with the hope of averting a nuclear showdown with Iran.

CNN's Elise Labott and Jill Dougherty contributed to this report.

 
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