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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The White House on Wednesday laid out its plan for tax reform, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying it would be "the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country." The tax code would be broken down into just three tax brackets, with the highest personal income tax rate cut from 39.6 percent to 35 percent. The plan would also slash the tax rate on corporations and small businesses from 35 percent to 15 percent. "The White House plan is a set of principles with few details, but it’s designed to be the starting point of a major push to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive tax reform package this year," said National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn.
"An emerging government funding deal would see Democrats agree to $15 billion in additional military funding in exchange for the GOP agreeing to fund healthcare subsidies, according to two congressional officials briefed on the talks. Facing a Friday deadline to pass a spending bill and avert a shutdown, Democrats are willing to go halfway to President Trump’s initial request of $30 billion in supplemental military funding."
The Michael Flynn story is not going away for the White House as it tries to refocus its attention. The White House has denied requests from the House Oversight Committee for information and documents regarding payments that the former national security adviser received from Russian state television station RT and Russian firms. House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz and ranking member Elijah Cummings also said that Flynn failed to report these payments on his security clearance application. White House legislative director Marc Short argued that the documents requested are either not in the possession of the White House or contain sensitive information he believes is not applicable to the committee's stated investigation.
The U.S. deployed "F-35 joint strike fighters" to Estonia on Tuesday. The "jets will stay in Estonia for several weeks and will be a part of training flights with U.S. and other NATO air forces." The move comes at a time of high tension between the U.S. and Estonia's neighbor, Russia. The two nations have been at odds over a number of issues recently, most of all being Vladimir Putin's support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in light of Assad's chemical weapons attack on his own people in the midst of a civil war.