TEHRAN - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday that some countries had offered to provide Iran with uranium enriched to 20 percent for use as nuclear reactor fuel, the official IRNA news agency reported.
Iran has always insisted on its right to carry out its own enrichment of uranium for a nuclear program which it says is for purely peaceful purposes, mainly to generate electricity.
It rejects Western suspicions its real intention is to build an atomic bomb, which would require uranium enriched to around 90 percent.
There have been some proposals by individual countries and groups of countries. We are ready to hold talks with anyone interested. Our experts will soon start talks with those sellers, Ahmadinejad said.
He said Iran could also buy nuclear fuel from the United States, its old enemy. We want to buy fuel. We can buy it from anywhere and America can be a seller, ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.
Western diplomats say Iran agreed in principle at October 1 talks in Geneva to send about 80 percent of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for processing. It would then be returned to Tehran to replenish dwindling fuel stocks for a reactor in the capital that produces isotopes for cancer care.
Some experts said the non-proliferation purpose of this deal -- reducing Iran's accumulation of enriched uranium that could possibly be diverted for weaponization -- would mean little if Iran accelerated its own uranium enrichment rate.
Ahmadinejad made no mention of Iran sending its uranium abroad for further enrichment. So far no purchasing agreement had been finalized, he said.
Representatives of some countries have said that France is ready to provide nuclear fuel for the Tehran reactor ... they (France) should officially propose it, then we will review it, state broadcaster IRIB quoted the president as saying.
IRNA quoted Ahmadinejad as saying last week's talks with six world powers -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany -- in Geneva were constructive and a positive step forward.
The Geneva talks are expected to win Iran a reprieve from tougher U.N. sanctions, although Western powers are likely to be wary of any attempt by Tehran to buy time to develop its nuclear program.
Iran also agreed with the six powers in Geneva to allow U.N. inspectors access to a newly disclosed nuclear site.
The underground enrichment plant near the holy Shi'ite city of Qom was kept secret until Iran disclosed its existence last month. Diplomats say it did so after learning Western intelligence services had discovered the site.
World powers at the next round of talks aim to press Iran for a freeze on expansion of enrichment as an interim step toward a suspension that would bring it major trade rewards. Iran has repeatedly rejected such demands.
(Additional reporting by Hossein Jaseb; writing by Fredrik Dahl; editing by Mark Trevelyan)