Iran has turned all of its enriched uranium closest to the level needed to make nuclear arms into more harmless forms, the United Nations nuclear agency says. The conversion of its stock of 20%-enriched uranium was part of a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program. The United States said last week it would unblock $2.8 billion in frozen Iranian funds in return for Iran’s compliance.
A four-month extension to talks on Iran’s nuclear ambitions was agreed on Friday between Iran and world powers. The talks are aimed at persuading Iran to limit its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. The six world powers involved in the talks – the United States, France, China, Russia, Germany, and the United Kingdom – suspect Iran seeks atomic weapons, which Iran denies.
Iran claims that its program was for peaceful purposes only and that it wanted sanctions on its oil-dependent economy to be lifted as soon as possible. The four-month extension reinforced the difficulties negotiators faced in settling the dispute permanently even if Iran had met its commitments under the initial agreement.
Correspondents say Iran’s completion of eliminating its most worrying uranium stockpile is a promising sign that its leaders do not want to derail the diplomatic process. A new report from the International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran is observing all of its other commitments as well. Negotiations between the six powers and Iran are set to resume in September, with the deadline for an agreement on 24 November.
It remains unclear whether the extension of the nuclear talks until late November will result in a final settlement on wider restrictions to Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for a gradual end to sanctions. In a joint statement after last week’s talks, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said: “There are still significant gaps on some core issues which will require more time and effort.” Read more about the story here.