Talks over Iran’s nuclear program are making little headway, with Tehran resisting U.S.-led efforts to crimp activities that could be turned toward making weapons, diplomats said.
As negotiations move closer to a July 20 target date for a deal, both sides are trying to plug holes in a sketchy draft agreement.
Five days into the latest round of talks between Iran and six global powers, two diplomats told The Associated Press that there is still a disagreement on the constraints Iran is ready to accept in exchange for a full end to the sanctions stifling its economy. The diplomats demanded anonymity because they are not authorised to discuss the confidential negotiations.
Tehran’s resistance was underscored late yesterday when Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejected pressure by the U.S. and its allies at the Vienna talks to force Iran into making concessions. He said the Islamic republic would not give in to attempts by the West to greatly restrict its uranium enrichment program.
Mr. Khamenei told top officials that the country should plan as if sanctions will remain in place so that Iran will be immune to outside threats.
Mr. Khamenei said in a state television broadcast that the U.S. goal at the nuclear talks is to convince Iran to limit its uranium enrichment capacity to 10,000 Separative Work Units (SWUs) while Tehran needs at least 190,000 SWUs.
The biggest hurdle remains uranium enrichment, a process that can make reactor fuel or the core of a nuclear weapon depending on the grade of material produced.
Iran, which insists it does not want such arms, now has nearly 20,000 centrifuges either on standby or churning out reactor-grade fuel.
Tehran has long demanded that it be allowed to run up to 50,000 centrifuges to power its one existing nuclear reactor, and the two diplomats said Monday’s expert talks began with no formal change in that position.
The United States wants no more than a small fraction of that number. Its strongest backers at the negotiating table are Britain, France and Germany, with Russia and China leaning to agreeing on any deal acceptable to Tehran and Washington.
Mr. Khamenei said Iran is prepared to give guarantees that it won’t weaponise its nuclear program but said the U.S., which has a record of using nuclear weapons during World War II, has no right to be worried about it.
The diplomats said there’s still disagreement over how to minimise proliferation dangers from a nearly built reactor that would produce substantial amounts of plutonium like enriched uranium, a potential pathway to nuclear arms.
Keywords: Iran nuclear talks, Iran nuclear programme, International sanctions, Uranium enrichment, Iran nuclear facility sabotage, Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Iran heavy water reactor, Natanz uranium enrichment facility, Stuxnet virus