Independent analysts on Thursday said Iran might not need more than a month to produce enough atomic material for one weapon in a hypothetical "breakout," USA Today reported.
"Shortening breakout times have implications for any negotiation with Iran," the Institute for Science and International Security analysis states. "An essential finding is that [these breakouts, or indications of how long it would take to turn low-enriched uranium to weapons-grade fuel] are currently too short and shortening further."
In Washington, Senator Mark Kirk (R- Ill.) in response to the report urged the Senate to "immediately" pass new legislation expanding existing sanctions against the Middle Eastern nation, in order "to prevent Iran from acquiring an undetectable breakout capability." The existing economic penalties leveraged by the United States are aimed at pressuring Tehran to address fears that its formally civilian atomic activities are covering for development of a nuclear-arms capability.
The Obama administration, though, on Thursday reportedly asked the Senate to postpone consideration of any new sanctions, as new nuclear negotiations begin between Iranian diplomats and counterparts from the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany. The sides have scheduled an Oct. 30-31 meeting of technical specialists, Reuters reported on Friday.
Before those talks, Iran is slated to confer separately with a U.N. agency on potentially clearing the way for a stalled nuclear probe. Envoys believe Monday's discussion could lead to agreements helping the International Atomic Energy Agency investigate whether Tehran once engaged in scientific activities relevant to atomic-arms development, according to a Reuters article from Friday.
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano is separately expected to hold an hour-long meeting on Monday with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, the wire service quoted the U.N. nuclear watchdog as saying. The one-on-one discussion would take place prior to the broader nuclear-probe talks.
Iran, meanwhile, appears to be selling less petroleum to other countries this month than at any point since early this year, suggesting importers in Asia and elsewhere have not immediately responded to the Middle Eastern nation's recent outreach in the longstanding nuclear dispute, Reuters reported.
The Persian Gulf power's crude petroleum exports for this month could be almost 30 percent smaller than its equivalent total from last October, said analysts tracking Iranian oil vessels.
The news agency pinned the lagging sales, in part, on the U.S. sanctions. State buyers of Iranian crude are likely still limiting their imports in an effort to continue receiving half-year waivers from measures, adopted in early 2012, that threaten any country failing to continuously restrict petroleum purchases from the Middle Eastern nation.
The European Union last year enacted an Iranian-oil embargo in response to tensions over Tehran's nuclear activities. More recently, EU nations are acting to reinstate a number of Iran sanctions struck down in judiciary decisions, envoys told Reuters for a Friday report.