'Iran mulling 6-month uranium enrichment freeze'

Al-Monitor reports US officials “had the most substantive conversation they ever had” with Iran over nuclear program.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
March 27, 2013 05:56
2 minute read.
A bank of centrifuges at nuclear facility in Iran

Ayatollahs centrifuge 390. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Iran is considering an international proposal to suspend uranium enrichment to a fissile concentration of 20 percent for a period of six months and converting their existing stockpile of 20% enriched uranium to an oxide for medical use, Al-Monitor reported on Tuesday, citing diplomatic sources.

According to the report, Iranian nuclear experts discussed the proposal at technical talks in Istanbul last week with the P5+1 group of world powers which consists of the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

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Al-Monitor quoted an analyst briefed on the talks as saying that US officials “had the most substantive conversation they ever had” with Iran at the Istanbul technical talks.

The Iranians, however, rejected other demands that the world powers' proposed in exchange for loosening economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic, sources said. At the previous round of talks in Kazakhstan last month, the Iranians reportedly raised objections to a number of proposed steps, including, suspending operations at the underground Fordow nuclear facility, allowing for enhanced inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog and shipping the country's supply of 20% enriched uranium out of the country.

According to Al-Monitor, the US may be looking at adding further incentives to sweeten the offer to Iran at the upcoming round of talks scheduled for April 5-6 in Kazakhstan.

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Western officials have said the offer to Iran at the previous Kazakhstan talks last month entailed an easing of a ban on trade in gold and other precious metals as well as an import embargo on Iranian petrochemical products.



In exchange, a senior US official said, Iran would among other things have to suspend uranium enrichment to the fissile concentration of 20 percent at its Fordow underground facility and "constrain the ability to quickly resume operations there".

Iran has been wary, suggesting that the powers are asking for concessions more significant than they have offered Tehran.

The last 12 months have inflicted a heavy financial burden on Iran's population as sanctions, combined with what critics say is government mismanagement, have torn the economy.

With inflation and unemployment soaring and the value of the Iranian currency halved since a year ago, the vast majority of Iranians have tightened their belts to celebrate Iran's new year - or Nowruz, the nation's most important holiday.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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