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Iran floats nuclear proposal

by MICHAEL R. GORDON New York Times News Service on October 16, 2013 10:00 AM

GENEVA — Speaking in English and using PowerPoint, Iran’s foreign minister outlined a proposal on Tuesday to constrain his country’s nuclear program in return for a right to enrich uranium and an easing of the sanctions that have been battering the Iranian economy.

After the discussions ended, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, and his team met for about an hour at the United Nations headquarters here with the U.S. delegation, which is led by Wendy Sherman, a senior State Department official.

The proposal presented by the foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, at negotiations in Geneva on Iran’s disputed program, called for “an end to an unnecessary crisis and a start for new horizons,” according to Iranian officials.

In a potential sign that the negotiations have turned serious after years of delays and obfuscations, a senior State Department suggested that the closed-door discussions had been workmanlike.

“For the first time, we had very detailed technical discussions, which carried on this afternoon,” said the State Department official, who declined to be identified under the diplomatic protocol for informing the news media. “We will continue the discussions tomorrow.”

Zarif presented the proposal during the initial morning session of talks with the P5-plus-1 countries — the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council: Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S., plus Germany.

Iranian officials said they wanted the details of Iran’s proposal to remain confidential for the time being. But the Iranian Students’ News Agency, ISNA, quoted Araghchi as saying the Iranian side had made several points to address international concerns over what Iran asserts is the groundwork for a peaceful nuclear industry but which the Western powers and Israel believe is a covert weapons program.

Araghchi, according to the ISNA account, said that Iran should have the right to enrich uranium and would do so despite the demands of the Security Council that it suspend enrichment until questions about the nature of its program are resolved. The enrichment, he said, would be subject to monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In exchange, Araghchi has said, Tehran expects sanctions the U.S. and other nations have imposed because of concerns that Iran was moving to develop nuclear weapons should be lifted.

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