Iran weighs high-stakes nuclear offer

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's Ambassador to the IAEA, arrives for Monday's talks in Vienna.
Two days after negotiators reached a draft agreement over Iran’s nuclear activities, Tehran left it unclear Friday whether it would ultimately sign on.

If Iran agrees to the proposal — reached Wednesday at the Vienna headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog — it could serve as a major step toward resolving an international showdown. The draft stemmed from talks among representatives of the United States, France, Russia, the United Nations, and Iran. It called for low-enriched uranium produced in Iran to be sent abroad for further enrichment and then returned for use in medical research and treatment. IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei gave all the representatives until Friday to say whether they would sign the agreement, which he called “a balanced approach to the problem.”

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The other parties made clear they will. U.S. National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said Friday the United States had “delivered its positive response” to the IAEA. “We look forward to Iran’s reply,” he added. Iran’s state-run Press TV quoted an unnamed Iranian diplomat as saying, “Iran is the buyer of nuclear fuel for the Tehran reactor and sellers should give a positive response to the buyer’s proposal.” It was unclear whether Iran was talking about a different proposal or describing the one reached Wednesday in different terms. Iran suggested Wednesday that it might agree to the Vienna deal. “In principle we have in fact accepted this offer,” Iranian diplomat Ali Asghar Soltanieh told CNN in Vienna. Soltanieh is Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. Tehran says its nuclear program is intended solely for peaceful purposes, but many in the West believe Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons capabilities.