The Wall Street Journal reports: Iran is preparing a package of proposals to halt production of near-weapons-grade nuclear fuel, a key demand of the U.S. and other global powers, according to officials briefed on diplomacy ahead of talks in Geneva next week.
Tehran in return will request that the U.S. and European Union begin scaling back sanctions that have left it largely frozen out of the international financial system and isolated its oil industry, the officials said.
“The Iranians are preparing to go to Geneva with a serious package,” said a former Western diplomat who has discussed the incentives with senior Iranian diplomats in recent weeks. “These include limits on the numbers of centrifuges operating, enrichment amounts and the need for verification.”
The package from the new government of President Hasan Rouhani could revitalize long-stalled negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program and underpin an emerging diplomatic thaw between Washington and Tehran.
But it also stands to test the unity of the U.S. and other international powers meeting with Iranian diplomats in Geneva in a bid to reach an accord to curtail Iran’s nuclear work.
By falling short of a complete shutdown of enrichment, the anticipated Iranian offer could divide the U.S. from its closest Middle East allies, particularly Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who have cautioned the White House against moving too quickly to improve ties with Tehran, according to American and Mideast officials.
In an opening salvo in the negotiations, Tehran is expected to offer to stop enriching uranium to levels of 20% purity, which international powers consider dangerously close to a weapons-grade capability.
Iran is also expected to offer to open the country’s nuclear facilities to more intrusive international inspections, the officials said. And Iran is considering offering the closure of an underground uranium-enrichment facility near the holy city of Qom, which the U.S. and Israel have charged is part of a covert Iranian weapons program, which Tehran denies. [Continue reading…]