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Status of reported Iran deal still unclear
Updated: 2005-11-12 11:31

Top diplomats from Russia and the United States expressed hope Friday that a deal could be reached with Iran over its nuclear program, but the status of a reported possible compromise remained unclear.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke after reports emerged that the United States and European Union negotiators would be prepared to accept Iran's expansion of its nuclear activities if Tehran agreed to enrich uranium in Russia instead of domestically.

Iran says it wants to enrich for energy. Washington and its allies fear it seeks the technology to make nuclear arms.

Status of reported Iran deal still unclear
Two Iranians work at the zirconium production plant, part of the nuclear facilities in Isfahan.[AFP/file]
In Vienna, a diplomat accredited to the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that a position paper had been passed on to the Russians about a week ago signaling EU and American acceptance of such a solution.

It was not a formal proposal, the diplomat told The Associated Press, describing it as a possible basis for restarting EU-Iranian negotiations meant to reduce suspicions about Tehran's nuclear aims.

With only weeks to go before the IAEA's 35-nation board meets to decide on whether to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council, the initiative was meant to give Tehran another chance to show good faith, he said. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the media.

Senior European officials and diplomats have told the AP that both the Europeans and Americans would be prepared to endorse such a deal, if made by Moscow, conveyed to the Iranians by IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei and accepted by Tehran.

Uranium in its natural state does not have a sufficiently high concentration of fissile isotopes for it to be used in nuclear reactors or weapons, and the concentration must be raised through the enrichment process. That involves converting uranium into a gas, which then is spun in centrifuges or sent through a so-called "cascade" of membranes to separate the fissile and non-fissile isotopes.

Under the reported compromise, Iran would be allowed to do the conversion work, but the enrichment would be done in Russia — an arrangement that theoretically would deny Iran the capacity to make fuel for nuclear weapons.

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