Tuesday, November 08, 2005

South Africa Denies Nuclear Involvement in Iran

Mail & Guardian:
South Africa on Monday denied that it proposed taking part in any uranium-enrichment activities in Iran, saying it had been "actively involved in seeking a diplomatic solution regarding the peaceful uses of nuclear energy by Iran". "The report that South Africa had proposed taking part in the enrichment process in Iran is erroneous and without any foundation," the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a terse statement, issued from Pretoria.

The statement late on Monday followed earlier claims by a senior Iranian official that Tehran was talking to South Africa about assistance with its nuclear programme in a bid to solve a prolonged international dispute over its atomic ambitions.

"We are in the process of negotiating on the modalities of this participation," Javad Vaidi, an official from Iran's Supreme National Security Council, told state television. READ MORE

He said that South Africa had suggested supplying Iran with uranium-oxide concentrate -- known as yellowcake -- that the Islamic republic would then convert into uranium hexafluoride gas at its plant in the central city of Isfahan.

In the nuclear fuel cycle, uranium hexafluoride is then injected into centrifuges to produce the enriched uranium that can be used both as the fuel for nuclear power stations and the explosive core of a nuclear bomb.

Vaidi said South Africa had also proposed taking part in the enrichment process, which is currently suspended.

Iran is refusing to give in to European demands that it renounce enrichment-related activities as the best guarantee that it is not seeking a nuclear weapon.

Last month, International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei identified South Africa as one of a number of third parties attempting to broker a compromise between Iran and the West.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, made an official visit to Pretoria, itself a former undeclared nuclear power under the old apartheid regime.

"It is well known that South Africa, as a member of the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has been actively involved in seeking a diplomatic solution regarding the peaceful uses of nuclear energy by the Islamic Republic of Iran," the Department of Foreign Affairs statement said.

"During talks with several concerned parties over a long period, a number of proposals have been discussed including in relation to the process of conversion," it said, without giving further details.