UNITED NATIONS (AP) – With Iran refusing US demands that it gut its uranium enrichment programme, the two sides are now discussing a new proposal that would leave much of Tehran’s enriching machines in place but disconnected from feeds of uranium, diplomats told The Associated Press Saturday.
The talks have been stalled for months over Iran’s opposition to sharply reducing the size and output of centrifuges that can enrich uranium to levels needed for reactor fuel or weapons-grade material used in the core of nuclear warheads. Iran says its enrichment programme is only for peaceful purposes, but Washington fears it could be used to make a bomb.
Time is running out before a Nov 24 deadline and both sides are eager to break the impasse.
Ahead of the resumption of talks Friday, the New York Times reported that Washington was considering putting a new plan on the table that would focus on removing piping connecting the centrifuges.
That would allow the US leeway on modifying demands that Iran cut the number of centrifuge machines from 19,000 to no more than 1,500.
Two diplomats told the AP that Tehran, which would gain an end to crippling nuclear-related sanctions as part of any deal, was initially non-committal at a bilateral meeting in August. But they say the proposal has now moved to being discussed at the talks Tehran is holding with the US and five other powers, and that the Islamic Republic was listening closely.
Both diplomats demanded anonymity because their information is confidential.
While only a proposal, the plan would allow the Iranians to claim that they did not compromise on vows that they would never emasculate their enrichment capabilities, while keeping intact American demands that the programme be downgraded to a point where it could not be quickly turned to making bombs.