West offers Iran deal, drops demand to close plant

World powers agree to ease sanctions on Tehran if the Islamic Republic suspends uranium enrichment at the nuclear plant.

Participants sit at a table during talks on Iran (photo credit: REUTERS/Stanislav Filippov)
Participants sit at a table during talks on Iran
(photo credit: REUTERS/Stanislav Filippov)
The six world powers have offered Iran a new deal during the two days of nuclear talks held in Kazakhstan this week, that includes easing some of the sanctions imposed on Tehran and dropping the demand that the Islamic Republic shuts down its enrichment plant at Fordow, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
In return for easing some of the sanctions, P5+1 insisted Tehran suspends uranium enrichment at the plant and take a series of measures that would “constrain the ability to quickly resume enrichment there,” the Times cited a senior American official as saying.
Furthermore, the six world powers also agreed to allow Iran to keep a small amount of 20 percent enriched uranium for use in a reactor to produce medical isotopes.
The unexpected decision to drop the demand to fully dismantle the Fordow nuclear plant was a way to allow Iran to save-face, the American official told the Times.
In their latest attempt to break years of stalemate in the dispute, the powers offered Iran a relaxation of some of the sanctions that are taking a heavy toll on its economy, and said they would not vote on new sanctions through the UN Security Council or the European Union if Iran agrees to take the deal.
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Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat
Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili expressed satisfaction with the talks' progress, saying Iran considers these talks "a positive step which could be completed by taking a positive and constructive approach and taking reciprocal steps." Iran did not, however, respond to the deal.
Following the end of the two days of talks in Almaty, the two sides have agreed to meet at expert level in Istanbul next month and to hold further high-level negotiations in Kazakhstan in April.
The meeting in Almaty was the first between the world powers and Iran in eight months. Western officials described the first day of the talks as "useful." Iranian state television described the atmosphere of the discussions as "very serious."
World powers hope Iran will react positively to their nuclear proposal presented at the talks when they meet Tehran's negotiators in the next two months, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.
"I hope the Iranian side is looking positively on the proposal we put forward," Ashton said after the two-day talks concluded. "We have to see what happens next," she said.
Hopes of a significant easing of the deadlock in the decade-old dispute were dented when Russian media cited a source close to the talks as saying there had been no clear progress.
"So far there is no particular rapprochement. There is an impression that the atmosphere is not very good," Interfax news agency quoted the source as saying shortly before the talks ended.
Reuters contributed to this report.