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Iran nuclear talks: To keep global support, US must seize diplomatic opportunities

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Now the task is to reach agreement on specific, concrete proposals that can help prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, beginning with the most urgent proliferation problems. The top priority must be to halt Iran’s accumulation of 20 percent-enriched uranium – which is above normal fuel-grade and closer to weapons grade – in exchange for fuel assemblies for its Tehran Research Reactor, which Iran uses to produce medical isotopes for cancer treatment.

Further uranium enrichment at these levels has the potential to significantly shorten the time Tehran would require to build nuclear weapons if it decided to break out of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. A deal to halt enrichment above normal fuel grade would provide negotiators with more time and space to address other key issues.

If Iran received fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, its needs for medical-isotope production would be met for the next decade. Such an arrangement would also establish a principle that Iran would not enrich beyond normal-reactor grade of about 4 percent as a first step toward restricting Iran’s nuclear program to peaceful uses.

The principle that Iran would only enrich according to its fuel needs could serve as a basis for a deal to limit the size and scope of its enrichment program as a whole.

In the next phase of talks, Washington and its allies must press Iran to improve cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran must fully implement its safeguards agreement intended to verify that its program is peaceful. It must finally answer longstanding questions about suspected nuclear weapons-related research prior to 2003.

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