The newspaper cited a senior U.S. official as saying the Obama administration and its partners were “very close to having an agreement” on a position to present to Tehran in negotiations the West hopes will get under way in Vienna next month.
The new offer would include tougher conditions for an atom fuel swap than those rejected by Tehran last year, according to the report.
Iran has welcomed the offer of talks, which the Western powers want to yield a deal curbing its uranium enrichment drive and opening it to UN nuclear inspectors in Tehran, which has ruled out halting sensitive nuclear work which can have both civilian and military uses, has yet to formally reply to the invitation for talks from Nov. 15 to 17.
Dismissing the impact of tougher sanctions introduced since June, it has said it is open to resume negotiations on a proposal for it to send low-enriched uranium (LEU) abroad and get higher-grade fuel for a medical research reactor in return.
Western diplomats said that even if a deal was struck on a fuel exchange, it would not resolve wider concerns about Iran’s nuclear plans. Iran rejects Western accusations it is seeking to develop nuclear bombs.
The Times said the new offer would require Iran to send more than 4,400 pounds (2,000 kg) of LEU out of the country. That would represent a more than two-thirds’ increase from the amount required under a tentative deal a year ago that later collapsed.
It said the increase reflected Iran’s steady production of uranium the past year and Washington’s goal to ensure Iran has less than than a bomb’s worth of uranium on hand.
Iran would also be required to stop all production of nuclear fuel it is enriching to 20 percent since February, a key step toward bomb-grade levels.
The Times said intelligence analysts concluded that last year’s deal was scuttled by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Many officials therefore suspect this latest effort to fail, the Times said.
Western diplomats have earlier made clear that any new swap deal must be updated to take into account Iran’s increased uranium stockpile and its work to enrich to higher levels.
One diplomat in Vienna told Reuters: “Discussions (between the powers) are still under way. I wouldn’t describe it as a new offer. I think primarily it is speculation. Of course, time has moved on since last year.”
“Iran has taken up 20 percent enrichment which is not justified if there were to be a fuel swap … so that would be a new element which would have to be contemplated.”
Research Associate Ivanka Barzashka of the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists said a successfuel fuel deal was a necessary condition for further Iran-West engagement and that its confidence-building benefits could still be salvaged.
But, “an increase in the swap amount will surely be seen by Iran as moving goalposts and will likely cause further delays in negotiations,” Barzashka said in an e-mailed comment to Reuters.
The Snooper Report.
Join us as we Take Our Country Back.
Sic vis pacem para bellum