|Iran indicates some flexibility over nuclear deal: WSJ||
TEHRAN – Iran has signaled that it is willing to accept a modest reduction in nuclear enrichment for the duration of a comprehensive nuclear agreement, according to people involved in negotiations, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.
The signs came six days before the July 20 deadline for completing a nuclear deal, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held a second day of talks with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
In brief remarks to reporters late Monday, Mr. Kerry said he had held “serious discussions” with Mr. Zarif and European Union foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton, who heads the six-power group negotiating with Tehran on its nuclear plans.
Iran proposes to freeze the number of centrifuges it operates at its current level of 9,400, and slightly reduce the amount of fuel these old-generation machines produce during the multiyear period of the agreement, an Iranian and a Western diplomat said.
According to one of the diplomats, Iran first aired the proposal to European diplomats several weeks ago. Under the offer, Iran wouldn’t remove any of the thousands of additional centrifuges it has at its Natanz nuclear facility that aren’t currently operating, the Iranian official said.
The Iranian proposal wouldn’t amount to the significant reduction in the enrichment program that the U.S. has been demanding and it would be easy for Tehran to quickly reverse the concession by increasing the centrifuges’ output again, the Western diplomat cautioned.
The Iranian move could help secure an extension of the talks. Earlier this month, Mr. Kerry said that Washington would allow the talks to continue past the deadline only if there were real progress.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday the U.S. and Iran had made “important progress” in the talks, though “serious gaps” remain.
Mr. Earnest said Iran had “engaged in the comprehensive negotiations in a serious way and demonstrated some flexibility.”
Iran negotiates with the U.S., UK, China, Russia, France and Germany on its nuclear program, which it says is for purely peaceful purposes.
A comprehensive agreement would see the West gradually lift sanctions on Iran in exchange for guarantees that Tehran’s nuclear program will remain peaceful.
U.S. officials have made it clear that after the multiyear agreement expires, Iran will be free to make its own choices on whether to operate a larger-scale enrichment program for peaceful purposes. However the two sides still have major differences over how long an agreement would last.
The U.S. is pushing for a deal lasting as much as 20 years, some diplomats say whereas Iran thinks an agreement—and therefore limits on its program—should only last a few years.
On Sunday, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said there was still a “huge” gap between Iran and the six powers on the enrichment issue.
At present, Iran has around 19,000 centrifuges, all but 1,000 of which are old-generation machines, with relatively low enrichment capacity. However only around 9,400 machines at Tehran’s Natanz nuclear facility are operating and producing nuclear fuel.
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