John Kerry in Lausanne, Switzerland, March 21, 2015.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- State Department officials are questioning reports surfacing from Lausanne claiming a shift in focus on talks with Iran over its nuclear program.
On Sunday night, the New York Times reported that Tehran had "backed away" from a key provision of a working deal: Its willingness to ship its uranium stockpile out of country to Russia, for conversion to a harmless form of fuel.
Iran's Deputy for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araghchi told journalists here on Sunday night that such an arrangement was out of the question.
"The export of stocks of enriched uranium is not in our program and we do not intend sending them abroad," Araghchi said. "There is no question of sending the stocks abroad."
While several outlets reported that the timing of his statement was significant— reporters here are closely watching every move and statement coming from officials here— the State Department sent American press several examples of Iran publicly rejecting that proposal in the past.
"Contrary to the report in the New York Times
, the issue of how Iran's stockpile would be disposed of had not yet been decided in the negotiating room, even tentatively," one senior State Department official said.
"There is no question that disposition of their stockpile is essential to ensuring the program is exclusively peaceful," the official continued. "There are viable options that have been under discussion for months, including shipping out the stockpile, but resolution is still being discussed."
Describing the large issues still outstanding in the talks on Sunday, one senior US official did not make note of the fate of Iran's stockpile. Instead, the official noted the challenges of monitoring Tehran's research and development programs, and the pace with which the United Nations will lift sanctions on Iran under a future deal.
Top diplomats here met for under an hour and a half this morning in a plenary session, Iran's negotiators on one side of a large room faced with the foreign ministers of Russia, China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.
They seek a political understanding that will frame a comprehensive nuclear accord.
Diplomats expect the talks to proceed down to the wire of a March 31 deadline.