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Iran calls fuel bank 'nuclear apartheid'

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Warren Buffett helps bankroll effort
  • The main global nuclear watchdog has authorized a nuclear fuel bank
  • Iran's ambassador to the agency says the idea is discriminatory
  • Iran is set to resume stalled nuclear talks with world powers next week

(CNN) -- Iran blasted a nuclear fuel bank approved by the world's main nuclear watchdog agency, saying the idea amounts to "nuclear apartheid."

The establishment of a nuclear fuel bank, approved by the main global nuclear watchdog, would amount to "nuclear apartheid," Iran's ambassador to the group said Saturday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors authorized the agency Friday to establish a reserve of low enriched uranium, which would prevent the disruption of uranium for civilian use if supplies drop in the commercial market.

The effort got a big boost from billionaire U.S. investor Warren Buffett, who pledged $50 million through the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

Buffett and former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn are leaders in the Nuclear Threat Initiative, which works to reduce the global threat of nuclear weapons.

"This is a breakthrough in global cooperation to enable peaceful uses of nuclear energy while reducing the risks of proliferation and catastrophic terrorism," Nunn said of the fuel bank in a statement. "If every country interested in nuclear energy also chooses to pursue uranium enrichment, the risk of proliferation of dangerous nuclear materials and weapons would grow beyond the tipping point. The IAEA fuel bank now gives countries an alternative to that choice and direction."

The nuclear agency, known by its acronym IAEA, said the initiative does not diminish a nation's right to establish or expand their own nuclear production.

But Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the nuclear agency, blasted the idea of a fuel bank at the end of the board's meeting in Vienna, Austria.

"Considering the fact that this suggestion has not been agreed upon by all IAEA member countries, it is more considered as monopolization of technology and science and nuclear apartheid, and is in stark contrast to the undeniable rights of countries based on the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the agency's Articles of Association, and unacceptable," Soltanieh said, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

Soltanieh said the domestic production of nuclear fuel is an "unquestionable issue."

"Any suggestion has to respect the undeniable right of countries in development, research, and producing nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes, and leave it up to them how the countries put these rights into operation," Soltanieh said.

The strong words came just a few days before Iran is to continue stalled nuclear talks with the so-called P5 plus 1 countries -- Germany and the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council: the United States, China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom.

A spokeswoman for Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said the talks are set to take place in Geneva, Switzerland, on December 6 and 7.

The IAEA has set strict conditions for the use of fuel from its bank. That uranium can only be used for the generation of energy at a power plant and cannot be used to manufacture weapons.

Iran maintains its nuclear facilities are designed solely for civilian purposes but the United States believes otherwise. Iran has been slapped with stiff sanctions over its continuation of uranium enrichment.

Meanwhile Saturday, the country's information minister repeated assertions that Western spy agencies are behind attacks on Iranian scientists.

Police have arrested several suspects allegedly connected to three spy agencies who were behind "recent terrorist attacks" targeting Iranian nuclear scientists, Iranian media reported Thursday.

The Mossad, CIA and M-I6 trained the attackers, the Iranian Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi told reporters Saturday, referring to the Israeli, U.S., and British intelligence agencies.

Professor Majid Shahriari was killed but Professor Fereydoun Abbasi escaped with only minor wounds in two attacks Monday. Both were on the faculty of Shahid Beheshti University. Assailants on motorcycles attached bombs to cars carrying the professors at separate locations.

Moslehi said the killing of another Iranian nuclear scientist, Masoud Alimohamamdi, earlier this year was also perpetrated by the same terror group, state-run IRNA reported.

The information minister also claimed the IAEA has sent spies, in the guise of inspectors, to Iran in order to gather information for western spy agencies.