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UN Agency: Iran Converts Enriched Uranium


European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, left, speaks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif before talks begin in Vienna.

European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, left, speaks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif before talks begin in Vienna.

The UN Atomic Energy Agency says Iran has converted, or changed, its enriched uranium into a less-dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons. The action is part of a deal reached with Western powers on Iran’s nuclear program last year. In exchange, economic restrictions, or sanctions, on Iran were reduced, although they were not cancelled.

Enriched uranium can be used to make nuclear weapons. Iran has said that it is not trying to make nuclear bombs. It has said its nuclear program is for civilian use.

The IAEA report comes after Iran and Western powers agreed to wait until as late as November to reach a long-term agreement on the future of Iran’s nuclear program.

Mark Fitzpatrick is the director of the non-proliferation and disarmament program at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He says it will be difficult to reach an agreement by then.

“They were able to agree to cap the sanctions, to cap the enrichment program, but Iran would not agree to roll it back, to make any reductions. And that was the sticking point.”

Catherine Ashton is the European Union foreign minister. She says there is much to be negotiated before an agreement can be reached.

“While we’ve made tangible progress on some of the issues and have worked together on a text for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, there are still significant gaps on some core issues which will require more time and effort.”

Ms. Ashton will leave her position before the end of the year. This could hurt future negotiations. Mr. Fitzpatrick is not sure that an agreement can be reached in the next four months.

“But in the meantime, Iran’s program is capped. They’re not going to get any closer to being able to develop a weapon. And of course they say that’s not their purpose anyway. So diplomacy has been working, the program has been capped. We don’t have a solution; we’re not likely to have a solution. In four months, maybe we have to reassess and cap and extend it again.”

The United States will remove controls on $2.8 billion of Iranian property because of Iran’s decision to convert its enriched uranium. But sanctions against Iran will remain.

Western powers and Iran have not yet decided when or where the next talks will take place. However, they say the talks will happen in the next few weeks.

I’m Mario Ritter.

This story was written in Special English by Christopher Cruise from a report by Henry Ridgwell in London.

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