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Washington and Tehran Extend Nuclear Talks, Again

Elliot Miller

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (P5+1) came to another interim agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran on Friday. Over the next few months the U.S. will give Iran additional access to $2.8 billion in previously frozen oil export revenue in return for concessions on its nuclear capabilities. The conference also agreed on a four-month extension to negotiate a final agreement.

As part of the framework deal, Iran agreed to accelerate the conversion of its 20 percent enriched uranium into 5 percent fuel for its research reactor. Iran also agreed to dilute its stock of 2 percent enriched uranium back to natural levels. In theory, this would slow Iran’s ability to reach the most advanced stages of its program and achieve nuclear weapons capability.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in November, said “very real gaps” still exist. (Photo: CNN/AFP)

Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement stressing the progress made over the last six months following the signing a joint plan of action last year. “The diplomatic effort remains as intense as it is important, and we have come a long way in a short period of time.”

But a comprehensive accord remains elusive, even diplomats at the conference had known for days that a final agreement on July 20 was not going to be achieved, according to Reuters. A joint statement issued by the EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that “significant gaps on some core issues” remain unresolved. One major point of disagreement is whether Iran will dismantle its advanced uranium program entirely, a key demand of the P5+1. Another is how Tehran will reduce its output of plutonium at the heavy water reactor near Arak.

Meanwhile at a policy forum in Washington this week, congressmen and senators from both political parties stated that President Obama must consult Congress in the event of an extension to the negotiations and further sanctions relief. Both chambers of Congress have introduced legislation to reinstate sanctions that were relaxed after another agreement was signed last November. Some legislators believe Iran is buying time to recover its economy to an extent where it will not feel compelled to accept a bad deal; Iranian hardliners continue to oppose rapprochement with the West.