Brazil offers to mediate in Iran nuclear standoff

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Brazil has offered to mediate to help end the West’s standoff with Iran over its nuclear programme, Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said yesterday.

He said Brazil could work with Turkey, which has already offered to help, and act as an honest broker to resolve “the single most important security issue that the world faces today”.

The United States is pushing UN Security Council members, including Brazil, to back a fourth round of international sanctions on Iran in the coming weeks, to pressure it to curb nuclear activities the West fears are aimed at making a bomb.

Brazil, whose trade ties with Iran have strengthened in recent years, wants to avoid sanctions it believes will be counter-productive and Amorim said he hoped a deal agreed last year but never implemented could be revived.

“Our role, rather than reinventing the wheel, is helping put (the parties) together,” Amorim told reporters in Tehran before meeting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“Because, on the basis of what was proposed last September, … an agreement may be possible.”

That deal was for Iran to ship 1,200 kg (2,646 lb) of low-enriched uranium — enough for a single bomb if purified to a high enough level — to Russia and France to make into fuel for a medical research reactor in Tehran.

Iran later said it would only swap its low-enriched uranium directly for higher grade material, and only on Iranian soil.

When asked whether such a swap could happen in Turkey — a NATO member which borders Iran and is also a temporary member of the UN Security Council — Amorim said: “I think that probably would be part of the deal.”

Having talked to all the major parties in the dispute, Amorim hinted that both Washington and Tehran might be willing to compromise. Iran denies seeking an atomic bomb and says its nuclear programme is solely for producing electricity.

“We have heard from the Americans that they seem sceptical but they didn’t say anything that may discourage us from continuing in our efforts,” Amorim said.

And he added that the United States should not see securing UN sanctions as a victory and any other outcome as a failure.

“Maybe it would be considered a defeat if they don’t get the sanctions and don’t get anything. If instead of the sanctions they get a good agreement, it would be a big victory,” he said.

“It would be a much better victory than sanctions that would only make the situation more difficult.”

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has warned against “pushing Iran into a corner”, is due to visit Tehran in May, reflecting the countries’ growing diplomatic and economic ties.

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