Iran notifies IAEA of approval over nuke fuel swap deal

Erdogan says agreement isn’t solution but opens doors for diplomacy

Iran regime warns opposition campaigns

OIC foreign ministers’ meeting urges nuke-free Mideast

Obama says backs South Korea in response to North’s torpedo attack

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says it has been formally notified by Iran of a proposed deal to swap of some of Iran's enriched uranium for nuclear reactor fuel. The swap deal was brokered by Brazil and Turkey. It calls for Iran to send more than half of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for nuclear fuel rods.

But the proposal falls short of a compromise deal suggested last year in which Iran also would be obliged to stop its uranium-enrichment activities.

The IAEA said it would pass Iran's letter on to the United States, France, and Russia "for their consideration."

Washington has treated the deal with skepticism and gone ahead with introducing a draft sanctions resolution to the UN Security Council.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the IAEA, said that Iran's decision to continue enriching uranium to higher levels "is not the issue."

He said Iran would abandon the swap deal if the UN Security Council approves fresh sanctions.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday Iran's letter of notification to the UN atomic watchdog on a nuclear fuel swap deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil had "a number of deficiencies."

"We discussed at some length the shortcomings of the recent proposal put forward by Iran in its letter to the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency)," Clinton said following two days of strategic talks with China.

"There are a number of deficiencies which do not answer the concerns of the international community," she told reporters. On Monday, Iran formally notified the IAEA of its response to the nuclear fuel swap deal, under which it would ship some low enriched uranium to Turkey in return for higher grade fuel for a Tehran research reactor.

The IAEA itself did not immediately comment on the content of the letter.

Western governments have been dismissive of the deal, which they have said fails to address international concerns about Iran's nuclear program.

"The agreement... between Iran, Brazil and Turkey only occurred because the Security Council was on the brink of publicly releasing the text of the resolution we've been negotiating for many weeks," Clinton said.

Washington forged a compromise on a new draft sanctions resolution in the UN Security Council, which it says has the support of all five permanent members including China, a close ally and energy partner of Tehran.

The West and Israel fear that Iran's atomic program is a cover for a nuclear weapons drive. Tehran denies this, saying it is peaceful in nature and aimed at civilian energy purposes.

China meanwhile said Tuesday there was still room for diplomacy in the Iranian nuclear standoff, while voicing support for the nuclear fuel swap deal.

"The discussions in the Security Council on the Iranian nuclear issue do not mean the end of diplomatic efforts," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters.

"We value and welcome the agreement reached between Brazil, Turkey and Iran on Tehran's research reactor," she said.

"We hope that Iran, the IAEA and other parties concerned will reach an agreement on the specific arrangement at an early date and peacefully solve the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiation."

Turkey's attempts to mediate Iran's nuclear standoff with the West have evolved into an aggressive effort to forestall new U.N. sanctions. The assertive campaign is placing Turkey in opposition to longtime allies Israel and the United States.

It also raises the question of whether NATO's only Muslim member is becoming less of a bridge between East and West than a powerful international advocate for its neighbors in the Middle East.

Turkey and Brazil reached a deal in Tehran a week ago under which Iran would ship much of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey, but it failed to ease concerns in the West that Tehran will continue to enrich uranium to higher levels with the aim of building a nuclear weapon. The U.S. introduced a resolution last week calling for a series of economic and trade restrictions after winning support from China and Russia.

That prompted Turkey, a temporary member of the Security Council, to send letters to 26 countries, speaking against sanctions and seeking support for the envisaged swap deal.

"Turkey wants to prevent the escalation of tensions with Iran to avoid suffering from it economically," said Nihat Ali Ozcan of the Economic Policy Research Institute in Ankara. "It is also seeking to raise its profile in the Muslim world but its loyalty is at risk in the eyes of the West."

The Obama administration says it appreciates Ankara's efforts and its ability to be an effective interlocutor with Tehran. But officials say they were unhappy with the timing of the deal and Ankara's claim that it met U.S. and U.N. Security Council demands.

The administration's swift response a day later announcing that Security Council powers had reached a deal on new sanctions was intended as a message to Turkey and Brazil as much as to Iran. While Turkey has been eager to portray its mediation as a sign of its growing power on the world stage, its diplomacy could not persuade Security Council members including, China and Russia, to hold off on sanctions against Iran.

For Israel, the nuclear swap deal comes at a time when diplomatic relations with Turkey are at a historic low.

While Israeli foreign ministry officials declined comment on just how the swap deal would affect the Israeli-Turkish diplomatic relations beyond admitting that "it is a factor," government ministers have been direct in their assessment that the deal is a bad one.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking Tuesday before Israel's parliament, described the nuclear swap deal between Brazil, Turkey, and Iran as "a transparent Iranian trick meant to distract world public opinion from sanctions by the Security Council against Iran. We know this is an empty proposal because Iran keeps in its hands enough uranium to make nuclear weapons, it continues to enrich uranium in its possession to a high percentage, and it reserves the right, according to its proposal, to take back the kilograms of uranium it transferred to Turkey at any time."

The Turkish government's involvement comes as another bitter twist in a relationship that has soured in the last 18 months over such events as Israel's offensive in Gaza and deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon's diplomatic snubbing of Turkey's ambassador during a meeting in January of this year.

According to Alon Liel, a former Israeli ambassador to Turkey, the relationship between Israel and Turkey has reached such a low point that Turkey's involvement in the Iranian swap deal is unlikely to affect the diplomatic relationship between the two countries — because it can't get any worse.

"The crisis is so severe that I don't think this agreement will change anything," he said.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party came to power in 2002 in a landslide victory and, despite the country's traditional alliance with the West, has expanded relations with Muslim countries, lifting entry visas with Syria and Libya, while criticizing its ally and friend Israel for what it says is excessive use of power against Palestinians — and earning respect in the broader Muslim world.

Israel had long supplied and upgraded Turkey's military equipment while Turkey allowed its pilots to train over the larger Turkish air space.

Erdogan walked off the stage last year after berating Israel's President Shimon Peres at an international gathering in Davos, Switzerland, over the war in Gaza. He quickly became a hero in the Muslim world with protesters chanting his name in street demonstrations.

That applause was meaningful for a nation whose ancestors held the seat of the Caliphate, the spiritual leader of world's Muslims, for four centuries during the Ottoman Empire.

The government also hosted shunned Hamas political leaders and mediated between Israel and Syria, which demands the full withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Golan Heights as a condition for peace. It has sent soldiers to Afghanistan and Lebanon but placed them under strict orders not to fight with fellow Muslims.

Despite all the rhetoric, Turkey is far from a break with the West. It has vast interests intricately woven into NATO and the European Union. Turkey has a customs union agreement with its top trading partner, Europe, and wants to become part of the EU.

But there is no doubt that the tone in Turkey's foreign policy is changing.

Although the United States has been its chief ally since the Cold War, Turkey opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq through Turkish soil, triggering tensions with Washington.

Until the late 1990s, Turkish relations with Iran were tense, with its secular, westernized government accusing Tehran of trying to export its radical Islamic regime to this predominantly Muslim but secular country. Today, Turkey wants to build deeper trade ties with Iran.

"Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, is hoping that Erdogan would confront the West on his behalf," said Meir Javedanfar, an Israel-based Middle East analyst and co-author of "The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran — Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and The State of Iran.

Turkey's enthusiasm for European Union membership has eroded in the face of European skepticism about admitting a large Muslim country. And it resents pressure from the West to reckon with the uglier aspects of its past, by making peace with Armenians and acknowledge that mass killings of Armenians at the turn of the century were genocide — a claim strongly denied by Turkey. Some other thorny EU demands are granting more rights to minority Kurds and withdrawing Turkish troops from Cyprus, which was divided into Turkish and Greek sectors after Turkish troops invaded it in the wake of coup seeking to unite the island with Greece in 1974.

A semi-official news agency says Iran's security forces have warned they will confront any opposition protests on the anniversary of the country's disputed June presidential election.

The Ilna agency on Tuesday quoted Tehran police chief, Gen. Hossein Sajedinia, as saying "police will confront any illegal gathering."

Iran's opposition has called on supporters to mark the June 12 anniversary with massive street protests. The government says it won't allow the rallies to take place, raising the possibility of more violence.

The opposition says President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the vote through fraud and that opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi was the rightful winner.

It says about 80 demonstrators have died in the crackdown on opposition protests so far.

On the other hand, foreign ministers of Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC)'s Member States have agreed upon not to link terrorism with any religion, race, creed, values, culture, society or group.

They also affirmed to continue their efforts in cooperating with the West to show the true image of Islam through dialogue between civilizations, expressing their condemnation the phenomenon of Islam phobia and systematic discrimination against Muslims and urging the international community to prevent incitement to hatred and discrimination against Muslims.

This came in the 'Dushanbe Declaration' which was issued earlier this week by OIC's Council of Foreign Ministers at the conclusion of their 37th session hosted for two days by Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan.

In Washington, the White House said Monday that President Barack Obama "fully supports" the South Korean president and his response to the torpedo attack by North Korea that killed 46 South Korean sailors.

The administration said it endorsed President Lee Myung-bak's demand that "North Korea immediately apologize and punish those responsible for the attack, and, most importantly, stop its belligerent and threatening behavior."

Seoul can continue to count on the full backing of the United States, the White House said.

"U.S. support for South Koreas defense is unequivocal, and the president has directed his military commanders to coordinate closely with their Republic of Korea counterparts to ensure readiness and to deter future aggression," the White House said.

The South Korean president said Monday that his nation would no longer tolerate the North's "brutality" and said the repressive communist regime would pay for the surprise March 26 torpedo attack.

He also vowed to cut off all trade with the North and to take Pyongyang to the U.N. Security Council for punishment over the sinking of the warship Cheonan.

The attack was South Korea's worst military disaster since the Korean War.

Speaking earlier in Beijing, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the North must be held accountable and she is pushing to get the support of China, North Korea's top ally, for diplomatic action.

A team of international investigators concluded last week that a North Korean submarine launched the torpedo that split the Cheonan in two.

Obama, in response to North Korea's pattern of "provocation and defiance of international law" has ordered U.S. government agencies to review their policies toward Pyongyang.

The White House said Secretary of Defense Robert Gates remains in close contact with the South Korean defense minister and will meet with him next month in Singapore.