Iran nuclear talks hit snag on advanced centrifuges and Arak reactor
TEHRAN - An Iranian negotiator said nuclear talks with world powers this week would focus on advanced centrifuges and the unfinished Arak heavy water reactor, the official IRNA news agency reported Sunday.
Iran is due to resume talks Tuesday in Vienna with the P5+1 -- Britain, France, the United States, Russia and China plus Germany -- aimed at reaching a comprehensive accord on its controversial nuclear programme following November's landmark interim deal.
"Using advanced and new centrifuges is one of the focal points which should be examined and solved for the long term and comprehensive deal, since we will definitely not accept to be deprived from having the right to replace the existing centrifuges with the new and advanced ones," Hamid Baeedinejad, an Iranian nuclear negotiator, told IRNA.
"The Arak heavy water reactor is also one of the most important and difficult subjects to be examined and discussed in the negotiations, and we certainly want to keep this reactor."
Western powers and Israel have long suspected Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability alongside its civilian programme, charges denied by Tehran.
Under the interim deal, Iran agreed to roll back or freeze some nuclear activities for six months in exchange for modest sanctions relief and a promise by Western powers not to impose new restrictions on its hard-hit economy.
The unfinished Arak reactor is of concern to the West because Tehran could theoretically extract weapons-grade plutonium from its spent fuel if it also builds a reprocessing facility, giving it a second possible route to a nuclear bomb.
Baeedinejad said any proposal which would allay such concerns "without changing the essence of the reactor" would be examined.
Iran agreed not to build a reprocessing facility as part of last month's nuclear deal. It also committed not to make further advances at its Arak, Fordo and Natanz facilities.
Mehr news agency said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is leading the negotiating team, would meet on Monday evening with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton for a working dinner.
It said the negotiations would officially begin at 0830 GMT on Tuesday.