Iran appears poised to offer key curbs to its nuclear activities that could be used to develop weapons — including freezing generation of uranium that it could quickly convert into bomb fuel — during negotiations with world powers next week, government insiders told the Wall Street Journal for a Tuesday report.
Tehran also may offer, during the Oct. 15-16 negotiations in Geneva, to send its stored 20 percent-enriched uranium to another nation, according to Western officials who spoke with staffers for Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. In return, Iranian delegates would seek initial relief from financial and petroleum sanctions imposed by nations that suspect Tehran’s atomic efforts are aimed at a capability to produce weapons.
Iran’s top lawmaker on Wednesday said a potential halt to producing the uranium that could be turned into bomb fuel will be on the agenda at next week’s discussion with the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany, the Associated Press reported.
“We have some surplus [enriched uranium] that we don’t need. But over that we can have some discussions,” Ali Larijani, a former lead Iranian nuclear negotiator, added in an interview.
However, Iran would demand a green light to still be able to enrich uranium to lower levels, the newspaper reported. That call could create a schism between Washington and regional partners such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, which have pressed to completely halt Iranian uranium refinement, according to U.S. and Middle Eastern government insiders.
The United States sought to reassure Israel in a Tuesday meeting between their defense chiefs, Defense Department spokesman George Littlesaid.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “noted that … we remain clear-eyed about the challenges ahead,” Little said.
Insiders said it was less clear whether Iran plans next week to offer a possible pause or end to uranium refinement at its Qum bunker complex, one of several steps the “P-5+1” countries demanded of the Persian Gulf power earlier this year, the Journal reported. Washington is unsure whether Iran’s Foreign Ministry-led negotiating team can bargain over the facility, which is under the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s jurisdiction.
Iran’s unfinished Arak heavy-water reactor could pose another obstacle to a deal, the Journal reported. That site could generate bomb-usable plutonium following its launch scheduled for the second half of next year.
High-level Obama personnel said they do not know if Iran would allow a long-sought investigation into whether it conducted past studies relevant to nuclear-weapons development.
Iran’s top diplomat, though, could be intent on communicating his seriousness about improving ties with Washington. In fact, Zarif said he was so upset about an alleged misquote in a Tuesday press report about Iranian-U.S. relations that he ended up in a hospital for treatment, Reutersreported.
Zarif said a conservative Iranian newspaper erroneously quoting him criticizing a recent landmark telephone call between the U.S. and Iranian presidents, as well as the length of his own meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
“This morning, after seeing the headline of one newspaper, I got severe back and leg pain. I couldn’t even walk or sit,” he wrote in a Facebook comment.
Back in Washington, Representative Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) has drafted a bill authorizing a U.S. miltiary strike against Iran and has been trying to garner support from other members of Congress, Foreign Policy magazine reported.
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