Source: Mehr News Agency, Tehran
In a major concession, Obama administration officials say they could support allowing Iran to continue a crucial element of its nuclear program, the Los Angeles Times reported on Friday.
The officials told the newspaper they might agree to let Tehran continue enriching uranium up to concentrations of 5% if the Iranian government agreed to unrestricted inspections, and strict oversight and safeguards.
Iran has produced 210 pounds of 20 percent enriched uranium for peaceful purposes, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, but it has purified about 6 tons at 5% or below. Uranium is considered weapons grade at about 90 percent enrichment.
The report also said a consensus has gradually emerged among U.S. and foreign officials that the Iranians are unlikely to accede to a complete halt to enrichment, and that pushing this demand could make it impossible to reach a negotiated deal with Iran.
A senior administration official said that if Iran fulfills U.S. and other world powers' demands for strict enforcement of UN monitoring and safeguards, "there can be a discussion" of allowing low-level domestic enrichment, "and maybe we can get there, potentially."
Gary Samore, the top White House official on nuclear nonproliferation, left open the door to Iranian enrichment in recent comments, saying the decision on which parts of Tehran's program can continue "is a matter for negotiations."
"We recognize that Iran has the right to a peaceful nuclear energy program, once it has addressed concerns about its nuclear activities," Samore told Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty on April 17.
Iran and the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) held a new round of talks in Istanbul on April 14, breaking a 15-month hiatus in talks, and agreed to meet again in Baghdad on May 23.
Iran is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which says countries have a right to enrich uranium if they comply with the rules. The six nations negotiating with Iran have agreed that the principles of the treaty would guide the discussions.
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