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Iran nuclear talks: Is compromise offer from Tehran good news?

Ahead of scheduled weekend talks in Istanbul on its nuclear program, Iran rejects some demands but signals it could halt uranium enrichment after stockpiling enough for research.

By Staff writer / April 9, 2012

A file satellite image taken in September 2009, provided by DigitalGlobe, shows a suspected nuclear enrichment facility under construction inside a mountain located north of Qom, Iran. Talks between Iran and world powers are scheduled for this weekend in Istanbul on its nuclear program.




With high-stakes talks on Iran’s nuclear developments scheduled for the weekend, Iranian officials on Monday suggested a readiness to address some of the international community’s chief concerns about the nuclear program.

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Depending on one’s degree of suspicion of Tehran, the willingness to lay out potential compromise positions even before the talks begin is either a hopeful sign – or evidence that Iran is out to use the talks to buy time for its nuclear advances.

Laying out a path for working with world powers on its nuclear program suggests Iran is feeling the pain of toughened economic sanctions, some officials conclude – and what’s more, is worried about a looming oil-export embargo set to take effect this summer.

On the other hand, some nuclear experts (and some more hard-line officials, including from Israel) worry that a compromising tone from Tehran is encouraging Western officials to ease what was once a categorical demand that Iran cease all enrichment activity.   

The hints at potential compromise began with the chief of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, who suggested Iran’s willingness to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent purity once the country stockpiles enough of the fuel to operate a small research reactor for the creation of medical isotopes. World powers view the stockpiling of 20 percent uranium as one of the most alarming developments in Iran’s nuclear program, since enough of the fuel can be further enriched over a matter of weeks to the higher 90 percent purity required for a nuclear weapon.

Feyredoon Abbasi, who heads Iran’s atomic energy agency, said Iran’s enrichment to 20 percent purity was only necessary to fuel the Tehran research reactor and that once that need was met it was “even possible to reverse to only 3.5 percent,” he told the Associated Press. The lower level of enrichment is all that is required for civilian power generation, which Iran insists is the goal of its nuclear program.

American and other Western officials who will take part in the weekend talks have suggested that their opening position will be that Iran cease enriching uranium to 20 percent purity and ship its existing stock out of the country to meet international concerns. One option would be for another country in return to provide the fuel for the research reactor.


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