Geneva : Iran’s refusal to suspend work on a plutonium-producing reactor and downgrade its stockpile of higher-enriched uranium were standing in the way of an interim agreement to curb Tehran’s nuclear programme in return for easing of sanctions, France’s foreign minister said on Saturday, according to a AP report. A Western diplomat in Geneva for the talks told The Associated Press that the French were holding out for conditions on the Iranians tougher than those agreed to by the US and France’s other negotiating partners, raising doubts a final deal could be struck on Saturday.
The French position was confirmed by another Western diplomat. Both gave no specifics and demanded anonymity because they were not authorised to comment on the diplomatic maneuvering. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius remarks to France-Inter radio were the first to provide some specifics on the obstacles at the Geneva talks, now in their third day. He spoke by telephone from Geneva, where he, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and counterparts from Britain, and Germany negotiating with Iran consulted on how to resolve the obstacles at the talks. Fabius mentioned differences over Iran’s Arak reactor southeast of Tehran, which could produce enough plutonium for several nuclear weapons a year once it goes online.
He also said there was disagreement over efforts to limit Iran’s uranium enrichment to levels that would require substantial further enriching before they could be used as the fissile core of a nuclear weapon.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal pointed to “rather large cohesion” among the negotiators, and said France wanted “the international community to see a serious change in the climate” of talks with Iran.
“There have been years of talks that have led to nothing,” Nadal said, alluding to the need for tough terms on Iran. Iran, which denies any interest in nuclear weapons, currently runs more than 10,000 centrifuges that have
created tons of fuel-grade material that can be further enriched to arm nuclear warheads. It also has nearly 200 kilogrammes of higher-enriched uranium in a form that can be turned into weapons much more quickly. Experts say 250 kilogrammes of that 20 per cent-enriched uranium are needed to produce a single warhead.