TEHRAN, Iran - Iran agreed yesterday to ship much of its low-enriched uranium abroad and then rolled out a new obstacle to nuclear compromise by insisting it would press ahead with higher enrichment, bringing it closer to being able to make atomic warheads.
The deal forged with Turkey and Brazil appeared to be another attempt to stave off UN sanctions, a doubtful endeavor judging by reactions from the United States and other Western powers.
The White House showed deep skepticism about the pact, warning it still allows Iran to keep enriching uranium toward the pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
"Given Iran's repeated failure to live up to its own commitments, and the need to address fundamental issues related to Iran's nuclear program, the United States and international community continue to have serious concerns," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.
Still, by involving Turkey and Brazil, Iran ramped up the pressure on Washington over additional UN sanctions.
In announcing the accord, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim and his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, said Tehran has the right to "a full nuclear fuel cycle, including enrichment activities for peaceful purposes" and condemned any new sanctions against Iran.
And the Iranian maneuver could weaken growing resolve by Russia and China to support new sanctions.
Moscow and Beijing were responsible for watering down the language of previous anti-Iran sanctions but appeared to swing behind the U.S. recently.
The deal announced yesterday calls for Iran to ship 2,640 pounds of low-enriched uranium to Turkey, where it would be stored. In exchange, Iran would receive, within one year, higher-enriched fuel rods to be used in a U.S.-built medical research reactor.