Iran’s high-stakes nuclear talks with the United States, Russia, France and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have concluded in Vienna on a note of cautious optimism, with IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei handing over to the participants a draft agreement, which he expects all parties to endorse by Friday.
According to Mr. ElBaradei’s draft, Iran is to send nearly 75 per cent of its low-enriched stocks of uranium for conversion abroad into fuel for use in a reactor in Tehran that produces medical-use isotopes, diplomats connected to the negotiations were quoted as saying. The transfer of the material would obviate diversion of Iran’s existing stockpile of enriched uranium for making weapons.
“I have circulated a draft agreement that in my judgment reflects a balanced approach to how to move forward. The deadline for the parties to give, I hope, an affirmation action is Friday,” Mr. ElBaradei told reporters.
Diplomats credited Mr. ElBaradei for the success in producing the draft, citing his ability to work out a compromise which met, half-way, Iran’s demand aired on Tuesday that France should not participate in an enriched uranium supply deal for the Tehran reactor.
The compromise revolved around Iran signing an enriched uranium supply deal with Russia. Russia, on its part, would sub-contract work to France for converting enriched uranium to metal fuel rods for the Tehran reactor.
Analysts say the compromise presents a win-win opportunity to both sides. Iran would get the material required, technically from Russia, which will play a nodal role in the arrangement. Without being threatened by fresh sanctions, Iran would also not have to forego low-level enrichment, which it presently undertakes under IAEA surveillance, to a less than five per cent level at its facility in Natanz.
“Everybody is aware [this] transaction is a very important confidence-building measure that can defuse a crisis going on for a number of years, and open space for [further] negotiations” on other outstanding disputes, said Mr. ElBaradei.
“There have been a lot of technical, legal and policy issues, issues of confidence and trust and that is why it has taken us some time and that is why we need to send the agreement to capitals for final approval,” he observed.
“I very much hope that people see the big picture -- that this agreement could pave the way for a complete normalisation of relations between Iran and the international community.”
Negotiations in Vienna were a follow-up of the Geneva talks held on October 1, between Iran and six global powers, where Tehran had agreed in principle to abide by the broad parameters of a nuclear-fuel supply deal.