WASHINGTON – Technical discussions between Iran and world powers over the
implementation of an interim nuclear agreement have taken longer than
anticipated, in part due to disagreement over Iran’s desire to continue research
into centrifuge technology.
Iran has already installed nearly 1,500 IR2Ms
– a new generation of centrifuges that are up to five times more efficient at
enriching uranium than older models, according to nuclear experts.
November 24, when the interim deal was forged, Iranian government officials have
said publicly that their scientists continue to research ways to advance their
“This issue [centrifuges] was among the main
factors in stopping the previous technical discussions on December 19-21,” a
Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
Other Western diplomats
confirmed that centrifuges remained a “sticking point” in the talks with Iran,
but said that last month’s discussions were understandably adjourned ahead of
the December holidays – not because of the centrifuge issue.
“As part of
the [November 24] agreement, Iran is permitted to engage in R&D, but that is
tempered by the fact that it is prohibited to install new centrifuges, except as
required by wear and tear,” the first diplomat said.
Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Thursday that nuclear negotiations with
world powers had revealed US enmity toward the Islamic state.
announced previously that on certain issues, if we feel it is expedient, we
would negotiate with the Satan [the United States] to deter its evil,” Khamenei
told a gathering, reported by the official IRNA news agency. “The nuclear talks
showed the enmity of America against Iran, Iranians, Islam and
Talks between Iran and the EU started in Geneva on Thursday to
discuss the practical details of implementing a nuclear agreement reached in
Geneva in November, an EU spokeswoman in Brussels said.
“I hope during
the two-day talks we can resolve the remaining technical issues which are based
on our different interpretation of text of the November accord,” Iranian Deputy
Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told state television in Geneva.
President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke by telephone
on Thursday, discussing Iran’s nuclear standoff with the West and aspects of
“carrying out agreements reached on the Iran nuclear program,” the Kremlin said
in a statement.
They discussed the conflict in Syria, Iranian media
Iran is under UN, US and European Union sanctions for refusing
to heed UN Security Council demands that it halt all enrichment- and
plutonium-related work at its nuclear sites.
Khamenei said international
sanctions imposed on Iran had not pressured the Islamic state to enter
negotiations with major powers.
“Our enemies do not know the great
Iranian nation. They think that their imposed sanctions forced Iran to enter
No, it is wrong,” Khamenei said.
The experts have to
work out when the accord will be implemented.
Western diplomats and
Iranian officials say the six powers and Iran want to start implementing the
deal on January 20.
“First the interim agreement needs to be implemented.
I think that by the end of January, or at least I hope, it will be
That’s the interim period,” said French Foreign Minister
Laurent Fabius on Wednesday.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said
the United States was keen to see the interim deal implemented, though she
declined to predict the outcome of the latest talks.
She said US
Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman would be in Geneva
on Thursday to discuss the issue with her European Union counterpart, Helga
Schmid, and Iran’s negotiator, Araqchi.
Centrifuges are one of the
primary tools used to enrich uranium to weapons-grade material.
advanced the tool, the more quickly the material can be enriched from harmless
degrees – less than 5 percent, as outlined in the Geneva deal – to over 90%,
which is enough for a warhead.
The interim deal forged by Iran and the
P5+1 – the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany –
requires Iran to freeze enrichment above 5%, and to begin degrading its
stockpile of uranium enriched to 20%.
Enriching the material to 20% is
the hardest part of the process.
US officials told The Jerusalem Post
that the goal is to wrap up the technical talks by the end of the weekend, but
familiar obstacles remain. Upon their completion, the parties are to have six
months to negotiate a comprehensive nuclear treaty.