Progress made in Iran’s nuclear talks

Iran and the six powers planned to start drafting key elements of the nuclear agreement mid-May

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Iran’s cooperation with six world powers and the U.N. nuclear watchdog could hint at an upcoming agreement before the July 20 deadline, as the parties met in Brussels to hammer out a negotiation strategy ahead of the upcoming settlement.

The United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany and Iran have planned to start drafting the key elements of the nuclear agreement mid-May, hoping to put an end to tensions and sour relations that had heightened the risk of a Middle East war over the past decade.

The plan agreed by all sides in November is “implemented consistently,” Mikhail Uliyanov, director of the (country) ministry’s Department of Arms Control and Nonproliferation said on Wednesday.

“We are confident that the unprecedentedly constructive cooperation of Iran with the IAEA as well as with the [six powers] gives grounds to hope for a successful outcome of the talks on a comprehensive solution to Iran’s nuclear issue before the deadline of July 20,” Uliyanov added. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog.

Other diplomats signaled that progress has been made during three rounds of talks since February, especially regarding the future of Iran’s planned Arak heavy-water reactor.

Western states worry that – once operational – the Arak reactor could be a source of plutonium for nuclear bombs. However, Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Ministry official, Hamid Baeidinejad, made no mention of the upcoming talks in his speech to the preparatory conference on Wednesday. He restated “the inalienable right” of parties to the 1970 nonproliferation pact to research, to produce, develop and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said the current Western assessment of Iran’s capability in this regard is two months, a time frame that is too short to be accepted by world powers.

The parties agreed to launch a new round of talks next week in New York City, as Iran hopes to ease itself of sanctions that have crippled its economy, cutting oil exports and restricting international banking transactions.

(With Reuters and the Associated Press)

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