Iran Reportedly Signals Openness to Key Uranium Curbs

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Oct. 16, 2013, 11:02 a.m.

En­voys on Wed­nes­day said Ir­a­ni­an ne­go­ti­at­ors this week voiced a tent­at­ive open­ness to di­al­ing back their na­tion’s dis­puted urani­um re­fine­ment activ­it­ies in re­turn for curbs on in­ter­na­tion­al fin­an­cial pen­al­ties, Re­u­ters re­por­ted.

Still, West­ern gov­ern­ment in­siders said it was un­clear if the Per­sian Gulf power would take steps ne­ces­sary to dis­pel fears that it is pur­su­ing a nuc­le­ar-bomb cap­ab­il­ity. Few spe­cif­ics have sur­faced pub­licly on an atom­ic com­prom­ise pro­pos­al put for­ward by Tehran at a two-day mul­ti­lat­er­al meet­ing com­pleted in Geneva on Wed­nes­day.

One West­ern en­voy said new plans are in place for a fol­low-up Nov. 7-8 meet­ing between Ir­a­ni­an dip­lo­mats and coun­ter­parts from the five per­man­ent U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil mem­ber na­tions and Ger­many — the so-called “P-5+1.”

Ir­a­ni­an For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­hammad Javad Za­rif wrote on Face­book that be­fore the next round of talks in Novem­ber the six oth­er ne­go­ti­at­ing powers will have “a chance to ac­quire the ne­ces­sary read­i­ness re­gard­ing the de­tails of Ir­an’s plans and the steps that they must take,” the New York Times re­por­ted.

EU for­eign policy chief Cath­er­ine Ashton said this week’s meet­ing, held on Tues­day and Wed­nes­day, was the “most de­tailed” to date on the nuc­le­ar dis­pute, the BBC re­por­ted.

In a joint state­ment, Za­rif and Ashton said Ir­an’s pro­pos­al “is be­ing care­fully con­sidered by the [P-5+1] as an im­port­ant con­tri­bu­tion.”

Ab­bas Araq­chi, one of Za­rif’s depu­ties, said Tehran pro­posed ini­tially ac­cept­ing cer­tain urani­um-en­rich­ment re­stric­tions with­in half a year in ex­change for par­tial curbs on pun­it­ive eco­nom­ic meas­ures, the Lon­don Guard­i­an re­por­ted on Wed­nes­day. Wash­ing­ton and its al­lies doubt Tehran’s long­time as­ser­tion that it only wants to en­rich urani­um to re­l­at­ively low levels for use in power plants and re­search re­act­ors.

A second phase would en­tail a num­ber of un­dis­closed con­fid­ence-build­ing meas­ures. In a fi­nal step, Ir­an would ac­cept more ag­gress­ive in­ter­na­tion­al audit­ing to help en­sure it is not di­vert­ing nuc­le­ar ma­ter­i­al for mil­it­ary activ­it­ies, while oth­er coun­tries would lift re­main­ing pen­al­ties and al­low Ir­a­ni­an urani­um en­rich­ment to con­tin­ue with­in es­tab­lished bound­ar­ies.

Tehran has no plan to stop en­rich­ing urani­um at its Qum and Natanz sites, the Los Angeles Times on Tues­day quoted Araq­chi as say­ing in re­marks to Ir­a­ni­an state me­dia.

Tim­ing for vari­ous steps re­mains a po­ten­tial snag for ne­go­ti­at­ors, ac­cord­ing to Re­u­ters. West­ern gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials have said eco­nom­ic pen­al­ties should re­main in place un­til Tehran stops pro­du­cing 20 per­cent-en­riched urani­um, which can quickly be con­ver­ted to bomb fuel.

Brit­ish For­eign Min­is­ter Wil­li­am Hag­ue said: “We are not today in a po­s­i­tion to make any changes in those sanc­tions. Sanc­tions must con­tin­ue. Sanc­tions are im­port­ant part of bring­ing Ir­an to the ne­go­ti­at­ing table.”

However, Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in­siders said Wash­ing­ton is will­ing to un­freeze cer­tain Ir­a­ni­an for­eign cur­rency re­serves in re­turn for con­crete steps by Tehran, Bloomberg re­por­ted on Wed­nes­day.

At the U.S. De­fense De­part­ment, of­fi­cials on Monday said they want to sell Saudi Ar­a­bia and the United Ar­ab Emir­ates $10.8 bil­lion in air-fired cruise mis­siles and oth­er weapons, Bloomberg re­por­ted. Arms in the pro­posed pack­ages are cap­able of hit­ting air de­fenses and radar sites in Ir­an and else­where, the news agency said.

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