Amman, Jordan – The United States and its negotiating partners have agreed on a detailed confidence-building proposal to present to Iran at nuclear negotiations due to get underway in Baghdad Wednesday.
The proposed package is an updated version of a 2009 uranium fuel swap plan that takes into account Iran’s progress in enriching uranium, American and European diplomats said.
While the details of the proposed package have not been made public, Western officials told Al Monitor that the package does not include sanctions relief at this stage.
Instead, the United States and its P5+1 partners will offer fuel for Tehran’s Research Reactor (TRR) plus safety upgrades to the plant, which is of 1960s vintage. Also potentially on the table: new research reactors that use lower level 3.5 percent enriched uranium, safety upgrades for Iran’s one functioning nuclear power plant at Bushehr and spare parts for its accident-plagued fleet of civilian airliners.
In return, Iran must stop producing uranium enriched to 20 percent and halt activities at Fordow, an enrichment facility built into a mountain near Qom. It is not clear whether Iran would also have to send out its stockpile of more than 100 kg of the fuel.
*The E3+3 will be putting forward a detailed confidence building proposal tomorrow, which will include a series of confidence building measures,” a western official told journalists in Amman Tuesday.
“Expectations are guarded,” a second western official told Al Monitor Tuesday. “If we talk substantively on elements of a deal and agree to meet again in three weeks, Baghdad will have been a success.”
“Just hope the Iranians are not deluding themselves they are going to get sanctions relief now—that’s not going to happen at this stage,” he added.
European and American diplomats have indicated that if the Baghdad talks prove constructive, they would like to meet far more regularly with Iran in a single location– possibly Geneva–to try to hammer out the complex technical issues for the confidence building measure.
Separately, the International Atomic Energy Agency chief said Tuesday that he and Iran were close to finalizing agreement on a work plan.
“During my stay in Tehran, there was an important development on the structured approach document on which we have been working since January,” IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said Tuesday after returning from talks in Iran with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.
“The decision was made by me and Mr. Jalili to reach agreement on the structured approach,” Amano said.
American diplomats said they welcomed the signs of progress, but noted the IAEA’s negotiations with Iran serve a separate purpose from that of the P5+1.
The IAEA and P5+1 tracks with Iran “are two separate processes,” a senior US administration official said Tuesday.
“The IAEA is about accounting for the past and for naming what is,” the official explained. “It is not about what is the nature of Iran’s nuclear program and what will Iran’s nuclear program look like going forward, and will it be peaceful.”
“Better to under-promise and over-deliver!” a European diplomat said. “The big picture is to get a process going where the big players and Iran meet regularly, ideally every month, and work step-by-step towards a common goal.”
–Barbara Slavin reported from Washington; Laura Rozen from Amman.