Satellite image shows a nuclear facility in Iran.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Iran might be willing to ship much of its uranium stockpile to Russia as part of a comprehensive agreement with world powers over its nuclear program, US officials said this week.
The New York Times quoted officials as saying that the Russians would convert much of the 28,000-pound stockpile into fuel rods for peaceful use in Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant.
Russia is engaged in talks with Iran alongside the US, the United Kingdom, France, China and Germany to reach a final agreement by November 24.
“There’s no doubt that the talks have benefited from constructive Russian involvement,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on Tuesday during his daily briefing with reporters, though he acknowledged that “obviously a lot more work needs to be done” in the negotiations.
Earnest’s response came amid questions over Russia’s role in US diplomatic efforts, a cause of strain ever since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea led to harsh sanctions from Washington and Brussels.
Nevertheless, the US and Russia continue to collaborate on issues of mutual concern, including the Iranian program, Earnest said.
“The Russians have engaged in the international community to achieve important progress,” he added.
report, citing “officials and diplomats involved in the negotiations,” claimed the tentative agreement marked a significant development toward a comprehensive nuclear deal.
“If the Iran-Russia deal works, it could be the cornerstone of something much larger,” one of the quoted officials said.
Once converted, such rods would be virtually useless in a weaponization program. The current stockpile is enough for Iran to produce several nuclear warheads, should Tehran’s leaders choose to enrich the material further to weapons-grade.
Russia would receive generous compensation for its participation, the report claims, during a difficult financial period for the country. And Russian President Vladimir Putin would benefit politically, expanding his longheld argument that Moscow is an indispensable force on the world stage.
Wendy Sherman, chief negotiator at the table with Iran, has stepped in as acting deputy secretary of state – second in command at the State Department – after the retirement of William J. Burns.
Continuing her role in the talks, Sherman will be in Vienna on Friday for a meeting of the political directors leading the negotiations. From that point, efforts will continue straight until the November 24 deadline.