Iran at talks: No scrapping any nuclear facility
Iran drew a red line on Tuesday on how far it would go at landmark nuclear talks, saying as the meeting opened that it would not buckle to pressure from the U.S. and five other world powers to scrap any of its nuclear facilities.
The statement by Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi suggested tough talks ahead, constituting a rejection of a central demand by the six countries.
The talks are designed to build on a first-step deal that came into effect last month and commits Iran to initial curbs on its nuclear program in return for some easing of sanctions. The deal can be extended, if both sides agree to do so after six months.
Iran insists it is not interested in producing nuclear weapons, but the six powers want Tehran to back its words with concessions.
They seek an agreement that will leave Iran with little capacity to quickly ramp up its nuclear program into weapons-making mode with enriched uranium or plutonium, which can be used for the fissile core of a missile.
For that, they say Iran needs to dismantle or store most of its 20,000 uranium enriching centrifuges, including some of those not yet working. The six powers also demand that an Iranian reactor being built be either scrapped or converted from a heavy-water setup to a light-water facility that makes less plutonium.
Iran is desperate to shed nearly a decade of increasingly strict sanctions on its oil industry and its financial sector in exchange for meeting the six-power demands. But it is fiercely opposed to any major scaling back of its nuclear infrastructure.
For the U.S. administration, successful talks would be a major step toward rapprochement with a country that transformed from a close regional partner to a bitter rival after the 1979 revolution that toppled Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and installed the Islamic Republic under the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Critics in the U.S. and Israel will be closely watching the negotiations, fearful that the White House might concede too much in hope of striking a historic bargain. Hardliners in Iran are also wary of any deal they see as rolling back Iran's hard-won nuclear accomplishments.
Margaret Childs in Vienna contributed to this report.
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