Iran Negotiators Face Showdown over Uranium

Global Security Newswire Staff
May 13, 2014, 7:09 a.m.

Dip­lo­mats say they are tack­ling an en­trenched urani­um-en­rich­ment stan­doff, as talks re­sume on Ir­an’s dis­puted nuc­le­ar activ­it­ies, the New York Times re­ports.

The fo­cus emerged as Ir­an and six oth­er coun­tries pre­pared for new ne­go­ti­ations in Vi­enna over po­ten­tial long-term lim­its on Tehran’s atom­ic ef­forts, which West­ern powers see as cov­er for de­vel­op­ment of a nuc­le­ar-arms cap­ab­il­ity. The Middle East­ern na­tion denies any in­ten­tion to re­fine urani­um in­to nuc­le­ar-bomb fuel, and has raised the pos­sib­il­ity of ex­pand­ing its cur­rent fleet of 19,000 en­rich­ment cent­ri­fuges to in­clude 50,000 or more of the ma­chines.

The United States, though, is ur­ging Ir­an to cut its ex­ist­ing en­rich­ment ca­pa­city so it would need more than 12 months to re­fine enough urani­um for a bomb. Robert Ein­horn, who stepped down in 2013 as U.S. State De­part­ment spe­cial ad­viser for non­pro­lif­er­a­tion and arms con­trol, last week wrote that more than “a few thou­sand first-gen­er­a­tion [Ir­a­ni­an] cent­ri­fuges” would be un­ac­cept­able.

Past months of ne­go­ti­ations have fo­cused largely on less di­vis­ive is­sues, res­ult­ing partly in a tent­at­ive of­fer by Ir­an to modi­fy its Arak heavy-wa­ter re­act­or to gen­er­ate less weapon-us­able plutoni­um upon ac­tiv­a­tion.

Speak­ing on Monday, Rus­si­an For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Ry­ab­kov said “Arak and trans­par­ency [ap­pear] riper than all oth­er items on the agenda for get­ting primary res­ults … by Fri­day,” IT­AR-Tass re­por­ted.

In­form­a­tion on Ir­an’s past atom­ic activ­it­ies may emerge as a stick­ing point, West­ern en­voys told Re­u­ters for a Tues­day re­port. A Monday meet­ing between Tehran and the U.N. nuc­le­ar watch­dog re­portedly did not yield sub­stan­tial trac­tion.

Ir­a­ni­an For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­hammad Javad Za­rif is ex­pec­ted to meet late on Tues­day with European Uni­on for­eign policy chief Cath­er­ine Ashton, who is rep­res­ent­ing the six oth­er ne­go­ti­at­ing gov­ern­ments, the Los Angeles Times re­por­ted. Three days of dis­cus­sions are slated to be­gin on Wed­nes­day, with del­eg­ates from Ir­an as well as China, France, Ger­many, Rus­sia, the United King­dom and the United States.

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