France, the U.S. and Russia expressed their concerns about the escalation of Iran’s nuclear program in a letter signed by their ambassadors and presented to the International Atomic Energy Agency, an organization linked to the UN. According to the three countries, permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, the enrichment of uranium to 20% by Tehran is unjustified given that the nuclear proposal delivered by those countries included an exchange of nuclear fuel guaranteed to benefit the country.

The letter sent this Tuesday to the general director of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, is an answer to the Iranian argument - reinforced this Tuesday by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - that Tehran doesn't accept these countries’ proposal, claiming it doesn’t contain satisfactory terms. "(This) is wholly unjustified... If Iran goes ahead with this escalation, it would raise fresh concerns about Iran's nuclear intentions," the letter says, dated February 12th.

The document still contains the proposal for Iran to trade uranium for nuclear fuel to produce isotopes for medical use – a proposal that would eliminate the risk of Iran producing weapons - with legal guarantees that this would be fulfilled. The letter lists conditions that "provide assurances regarding our collective commitment" to complete the agreement in addition to "substantial political guarantees" by Washington. The guarantees include the IAEA assuming custody of Iran’s nuclear material as part of the exchange agreement, a pact of supplies and technical support from the IAEA so that Iran’s nuclear reactor, which produces medical isotopes, can operate safely.

Diplomats said that the letter was given to the press to refute an Iranian authority’s declaration that the major powers had offered a new deal for Iran.

On foot

In an interview with journalists, Ahmadinejad said this Tuesday that Tehran is still discussing the major powers’ proposal for Iranian uranium enrichment in foreign soil and that the matter is not closed. “Talks are still underway about the nuclear fuel exchange,” said Ahmadinejad. “The case is not yet closed. We have already announced that we are ready for a fuel exchange within a fair framework,” said Ahmadinejad without giving major details. Ahmadinejad said that the exchange might even occur with the U.S., a country considered an enemy of the Islamic Republic.

According to the president, the country prefers to send uranium abroad instead of enriching it at home, but he cannot find “good will” for it. “We told them that if they don't provide us (with the fuel) in due time, we would start work inside (Iran). And even now, if they provide us with the necessary fuel, the conditions will be changed," Ahmadinejad added, in a speech that probably won’t change America’s consideration of new sanctions.

Russia

The letter was received as a signal of a tougher Russian position in regards to the Iranian nuclear program. Russia declared this Tuesday that it hadn’t changed its position regarding the new round of sanctions in response to advances made by the Iranian nuclear program, but it admitted that punitive measures shouldn’t be excluded if Tehran doesn’t meet its obligations.

Its support is essential to get new sanctions against the Iranian nuclear program approved by the UN Security Council and promoted by the U.S. In order for this to occur, nine out of 15 votes of Security Council members are necessary and no vetoes by the five permanent members – the U.S., China, Russia, the U.K. and France. France declared its support for those sanctions. Germany also threatened to impose sanctions, while the U.K. said Iran’s new plans violate UN resolutions and that it is concerned by the announcement.

China firmly defends the continuation of the nuclear dialogue.