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Sep 26, 2014 11:23 AM

France: no high level Iran nuke talks meeting

The Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) Russia's foreign minister expressed hopes Friday that Iran and six world powers would reach a nuclear deal by the Nov. 24 deadline but a senior Iranian official and France's top diplomat said the latest round has failed to make substantial headway toward that goal.

With the talks being held on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, expectations had been high that foreign ministers of the six powers negotiating with Iran would join the talks.

But French Foreign Minister Lauren Fabius told reporters that he and his counterparts would not do so because "there are no significant advances at the moment," while Iranian media quoted Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi as saying the sides had "not yet arrived at a mutual understanding that can serve as the basis of an agreement."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov struck a more optimistic note, saying both sides were interested in resolving "the remaining small but extremely important issues" by the extended deadline of Nov. 24.

The session, which began eight days ago, remains stuck over uranium enrichment. Iran says it needs a robust enrichment program to make reactor fuel and other peaceful purposes but the U.S. and its allies fear the program's other application making the fissile core of a nuclear weapon.

The U.S. came to the current round demanding that Tehran limit its enrichment output at what roughly 1,500 of its mainstay centrifuge machines would produce. Iran insists the output should remain at the level produced at the approximately 10,000 centrifuges it now operates.

With the clock ticking down on the November deadline, diplomats told The Associated Press Thursday that the U.S. is considering a new approach. They said the tentative proposal would allow Tehran to keep nearly half of the centrifuges already spinning but reduce the stock of uranium gas fed into the machines to the point where it would take more than a year of enriching to create enough material for a nuclear warhead.

The diplomats emphasized that the proposal is only one of several being discussed by the six powers the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany and has not yet been formally submitted to the Iranians.

Other ideas also include letting Iran have more than 1,500 machines but removing or destroying much of the infrastructure needed to make them run connecting circuits, pipes used to feed uranium gas and other auxiliary equipment.

Both would allow the Iranians to claim that they did not compromise on vows that they would never destroy existing enrichment capabilities, while keeping intact American demands that the program be downgraded to a point where it could not be quickly turned to making bombs.

But even if a solution is found, the sides still differ on how long Iran's nuclear program should be constrained.

The fates of a reactor under construction near the city of Arak and of an underground enrichment facility at Fordo are also up in the air. The U.S. and its Western allies want the reactor converted to reduce to a minimum of its production of plutonium, an alternate pathway to nuclear arms. And they insist that the Fordo plant be shuttered or used for something other than enrichment because it is fortified and thought to be impervious to air attacks.


Associated Press writer Edith Lederer contributed.


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