Iran: nuclear plan 'backed' by six world powers
Iran's plan to cap some of the country's atomic activities in exchange for selective relief from crippling economic sanctions has been accepted by six world powers, the country's chief nuclear negotiator said yesterday.
The upbeat comments from Abbas Araghchi, reported by Iranian state TV, suggest that negotiators in Geneva are moving from broad discussions over a nuclear deal to specific steps limiting Tehran's ability to make atomic weapons.
In return, Iran would start getting relief from sanctions that have hit its economy hard.
"Today, they clearly said that they accept the proposed framework by Iran," Araghchi said. Though he described the negotiations as "very difficult", he said he expected agreement on details by today, the last scheduled round of the current talks.
International negotiators, representing the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, declined to comment on Araghchi's statement.
The last round of talks three weeks ago reached agreement on a framework of possible discussion points. The two sides kicked off yesterday's round focused on getting to a "first step" - described by Western negotiators as an initial curb on uranium enrichment and other activities.
Though Tehran says it needs to do this work for peaceful purposes, the US and its allies fear Iran could turn it to use to arm warheads with fissile material.
Before the talks, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with top EU diplomat Catherine Ashton, who is convening the meeting.
Asked afterwards about the chances of agreement on initial steps this week, Zarif said: "If everyone tries their best, we may have one."
After nearly a decade of deadlock, Iran seems more amenable to making concessions to the six countries. Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, has indicated he could cut back on the nuclear programme in exchange for an easing of sanctions.
However, difficult issues remain. Iranian hardliners, for example, want significant sanctions reductions in exchange for scaling back enrichment, while some US lawmakers want the enrichment to stop altogether in exchange for loosening sanctions.
Officials from two of the delegations said the relief on offer at this meeting will be limited and is unlikely to affect the core sanctions on Iran's oil and finance sectors unless Tehran makes sweeping concessions.