Report: Iran slows down nuclear program in gesture to West
UN Security Council members mull new sanctions targeting Tehran's Revolutionary Guard, Iran economy.
Iran has suspended its uranium enrichment program for two months, Iranian media sources reported on Monday, saying the move was meant as a gesture of good will toward Western powers.
The report has not been confirmed by any other sources.
Meanwhile, with or without connection to these reports, U.S. government officials have said that there was still a chance of striking a deal with Iran over its nuclear program.
The possible deal, according to the Washington based newspaper Politico, would be based on the proposal formed late last September and early October in talks in Geneva and Vienna, between Iran and Western powers. The agreement may still go through, even though the deadline which U.S. President Barack Obama set for nuclear talks with Iran, the end of 2009, has expired.
The United States is reportedly mulling new sanctions against Tehran, along with Germany and the four permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
The new sanctions were meant to specifically target the country's Revolutionary Guard, in charge of Iran's nuclear program, as well as Tehran's economy.
At the moment, it remains unclear whether all five Security Council member nations are in agreement on whether or not to intensify sanctions against Iran, as it seems that Russia is inclined to join the Western powers on the issue, with China still objecting.
UN nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency reported recently that Iran has significantly slowed down the operation of the centrifuges in its nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz.
It had not been made clear whether the fact that Iran is operating only 60 percent of the 9,000 centrifuges has to do with a conscious decision, or perhaps is the result of technical difficulties, or even sabotage by Western intelligence agencies.
However, the IAEA report also stated that Iran's uranium enrichment levels have remained constant, indicating that Iran is in full control of its nuclear technology.
Many details of the agreement have not yet been made public, but the bits released to the public call for Iran to transfer about 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium - about 75 percent of its known stock - to Russia. There, it will be enriched to a level of 20 percent and then transferred to France, where it will be processed into nuclear fuel and returned to Tehran for use in its research reactor, which makes medical isotopes.
Iran has offered a modification to the forming deal, under which it will deliver the uranium in stages, and would receive the enriched material in stages as well. However, the United States has rejected that offer, sticking to the original wording of the deal.
New EU foreign policy chief: Iran must work with us
Iran has made mistakes in its relationships with the West and must work with the international community over its human rights record and its nuclear program, the European Union's new foreign policy supremo said Monday.
Catherine Ashton is set to steer the EU's diplomacy over the next five years, making her a key commentator on the bloc's future relations.
Iran is "a country which is steeped in history, and I feel that it has made mistakes. If the country wants to be treated as I believe its history, geography and people deserve, it has to work with us," Ashton said during her confirmation hearing in the European Parliament.