VIENNA — Iranian negotiators at international talks on Iran’s nuclear development program have privately floated a series of ideas they say is aimed at resolving differences with world powers on the key question of how much uranium enrichment capacity Tehran should retain, diplomats said Monday.
With a July 20 deadline looming, U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry and his No. 2 and No. 3 diplomats remained in the Austrian capital to try to resolve the issue.
They said they were making progress in some areas but remained at a standoff over enrichment, a subject on which neither side can give much ground because of domestic political pressures. Iran wants to expand its enrichment program to an industrial scale, whereas the six world powers with which it is negotiating insist it reduce production to a “fraction.”
One Iranian proposal, described for the first time Monday in the Wall Street Journal, would allow the country to continue to operate its 9,400 centrifuges for the duration of the deal. The plan, similar to one proposed by Iran’s foreign minister in 2005, is considered unworkable in its current form by the world powers: the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. But some analysts said it could prove valuable if combined with other ideas to limit Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon.
Iran’s supreme leader said last week that he wanted a centrifuge capacity that is almost 20 times the current operation.
Iran, which wants the world powers to lift economic sanctions on the nation, insists its nuclear development plans are for civilian purposes only. The U.S. and other Western powers believe Tehran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.