US official sets out ‘bottom lines’ for Iran deal
search

US official sets out ‘bottom lines’ for Iran deal

Framework to ensure it would take Tehran at least 1 year to break out to bomb, snap inspections, renewed sanctions if violations occur

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (right) shakes hands with then US secretary of state John Kerry (left) in Geneva, January 14, 2015. (AFP/Rick Wilking/Pool)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (right) shakes hands with then US secretary of state John Kerry (left) in Geneva, January 14, 2015. (AFP/Rick Wilking/Pool)

The United States on Friday set out what it called its “bottom lines” to reach a deal with Iran to rein in its nuclear program, ahead of new talks next week.

Washington had stuck to its guns that it wanted a “good deal” and had agreed to several extensions of the negotiations “because we have held firm to certain bottom lines,” a senior US administration official said.

“We will only accept an agreement that cuts off the different pathways to the fissile material that Iran needs for a nuclear weapon,” the official stressed.

US Secretary of State John Kerry will leave at the weekend for Switzerland, where he will meet once again with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The pace and intensity of the talks have sped up as global powers gathered under the P5+1 group have been seeking a deal with Iran to stop it acquiring a nuclear weapon — something Tehran denies trying to do.

A March 31 deadline for a political framework for the deal is looming with negotiators saying they will aim to pin down the final technical details by June 30.

While US officials cautioned that there were no guarantees a deal would be reached, they said “the negotiations have advanced substantially, gaps have narrowed.”

The officials were talking only days ahead of a controversial visit to Washington by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has vehemently opposed the emerging nuclear deal with Iran.

Netanyahu is due to address the US Congress on Tuesday on why he believes the looming Iran deal is a bad move, despite opposition from the White House which sees the trip as interference with the talks and as inappropriate ahead of Israel’s elections later in March.

“When we have an agreement it has to be measured against the alternatives,” the US administration official said.

The lack of an agreement could present the US with the question of whether or not to use “military force” to halt a resumed Iranian nuclear program.

Bottom lines

Staking out the broad outlines of a deal — without going into specifics — the US official spelled out where Washington was standing firm:

— Iran should not be allowed to develop weapons-grade plutonium at its Arak reactor. “We’re discussing how Iran can convert that Arak reactor to serve a different purpose,” the official said.

— Iran should not use its Fordo nuclear plant to enrich uranium.

— That would leave only Iran’s Natanz plant capable of enriching uranium, which at high grades can be used in nuclear weapons.

— Any deal must ensure that it would take Iran a year to gather enough fissile material to make a bomb.

— Iran would “reduce significantly” its current number of operating centrifuges and its domestic stockpile.

— Iran must agree to unprecedented inspections of both nuclear and production facilities as well as uranium mines and mills, and suspect sites.

— The US is pursuing a deal in which relief from international sanctions demanded by Iran “is phased in over a period of time.”

“We are insisting on the principle that sanctions can snap back into place if Iran were to violate the agreement,” the US official said.

Join us!
A message from the Editor of Times of Israel
David Horovitz

For as little as $6 a month, you can help support our independent journalism — and enjoy special benefits and status as a Times of Israel Community member!

The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.

We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.

Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.

Join our community
read more:
comments