News / Middle East

Key Technical Issues Remain in Iran Talks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second left, meets with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, center, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, third right, at the Iran Nuclear talks in Geneva, Switzerland, Nov. 9, 201
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second left, meets with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, center, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, third right, at the Iran Nuclear talks in Geneva, Switzerland, Nov. 9, 201
As Iranian and Western negotiators move closer to a deal limiting Iran’s nuclear capability, key continuing issues need to be resolved.

It seemed in early November that an agreement was at hand after top Western diplomats, including U.S. Secretary John Kerry, flew to Geneva to meet Iranian officials.

Negotiations are now set to resume on November 20 in Geneva. Western and Iranian officials have given indications a framework is within reach to limit Iran’s capability to build a nuclear weapon.

The international community has been trying for years to persuade Iran to end its uranium enrichment program - but with little success. Low enriched uranium can be used for civilian nuclear power plants but highly-enriched uranium is an integral part of a nuclear bomb.

Uranium enrichment key

Jim Walsh, Iran expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says the core of the deal is the uranium enrichment issue.

“No one wants Iran to have a big pile of 20 percent enriched uranium sitting around that might later quickly be converted and further enriched to bomb-grade uranium,”  Walsh said. “So if Iran is not producing anymore 20 per cent enrichment and if it disposes of the 20 percent it has already produced - that is a big non-proliferation win.”

Daryl Kimball, head of the Arms Control Association, a private research firm, said 20 percent enrichment gives Iran more than normal reactor fuel grades but not quite weapons grade.

“Western nations also want to stop the introduction of additional centrifuges into the two main enrichment facilities - Natanz and Fordow," he said. "They also would like to dispose of or ship out of the country the existing 20 percent enriched material as well as perhaps some of the low enriched uranium that the Iranians have accumulated.”

Plutonium production caution

Joel Rubin, expert on Iran with the Ploughshares Fund, a foundation specializing in nuclear weapons policy, said another Western demand is for Iran to stop construction of the Arak plutonium production facility. Plutonium is a key component of a nuclear weapon.

“A plutonium facility is above ground, unlike these uranium enrichment facilities. So it’s more easily monitored and would require a reprocessing facility that has not yet been constructed,” Rubin said.

“And it’s estimated that it won’t be completed - this one - until sometime in 2014 at the earliest and then the reprocessing would take more time after that," he said. "But that is a concern - the question is why does Iran need a plutonium facility?”

Sanctions relief wanted

For its part, Iran is looking for substantial relief from the crippling international sanctions that have hurt the country’s economy and financial sector, driving up unemployment and inflation.

Daryll Kimball with the Arms Control Association said Western nations - known as the P5+1 - are willing to ease some sanctions as long as Iran does its part.

“The P5+1 are believed to be offering relief on sanctions involving trade in aircraft parts, automobile parts, trade in gold and precious metals," he said. "And the P5+1 may also be contemplating the release of frozen Iranian assets in banks around the world, assets from oil trading over the past several years.”

“This totals tens of billions of dollars and the P5+1 could gradually release some of those funds as Iran takes concrete steps to limit their programs,” Kimball said.

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Willie from: Argentina
November 13, 2013 2:15 PM
PEACE, SHALOM, SALAM, PAZ. A four same words, a same shared wish, a same and only God. Happy next holidays of Xmas, and new year 2014, we sure hope better than this, to everybody.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs