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Where do the Iran nuclear talks stand?

Tuesday - 11/12/2013, 3:06am  ET

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gestures while speaking at a press conference at the end of the Iranian nuclear talks in Geneva, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013. Nuclear talks with Iran have failed to reach agreement, but Kerry said differences between Tehran and six world powers made "significant progress." (AP Photo/Jason Reed, Pool)

GEORGE JAHN
Associated Press

GENEVA (AP) -- After a whirlwind few days in Geneva, Iran and six world powers -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany -- have walked away from talks on Iran's nuclear program with only a vow to return in 10 days.

America's top diplomat said Iranian envoys backed off from a wider deal seeking to ease Western concerns that Tehran could one day develop atomic weapons.

But behind the scenes a lot was accomplished, according to diplomats in Geneva for the talks, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss diplomatic maneuvering.

WHAT IS THE DISPUTE?

Iran has produced tons of low-enriched uranium and has nearly 200 kilograms (450 pounds) of uranium enriched to 20 percent in stock. The latter could be turned into weapons-grade uranium to arm nuclear warheads much more quickly and Iran is only about 50 kilograms (110 pounds) short of the amount needed for that. Iran has also started to build a plutonium-producing reactor. The six nations originally wanted Iran to suspend all enrichment, but are now trying only to contain its work. They have imposed crippling sanctions on Iran to press their case.

WHAT DOES THE OFFER ON THE TABLE LOOK LIKE?

Iran would stop making 20-percent enriched uranium, downgrade what it has to 5 percent -- the grade needed for reactor fuel -- and limit all future production to the same level. It would also delay work on the plutonium reactor.

The six nations, in turn, would unfreeze some of the tens of billions of dollars Iran holds in overseas bank accounts. They also would lift some of the sanctions -- specifically those limiting trade in precious metals and petrochemicals.

WHAT MORE DOES IRAN WANT?

Tehran wants more of the sanctions lifted -- the "core" oil sanctions that cripple its ability to sell its main export. It also wants the six world powers to let it resume international financial transactions immediately.

WHAT ARE THE OTHER STICKING POINTS?

The six world powers don't always agree. Over the weekend, France suddenly voiced opposition to the demand that work stop for six months on Iran's plutonium reactor, saying that isn't enough. The differences were ironed out after discussions between France and its negotiating partners reached compromise wording.

Another main issue is Iran's claim that it has a right to a peaceful enrichment program. The United States and Britain oppose this, while Russia, China -- and now even France -- feel the world powers should concede the point to Tehran.

WHAT LIES AHEAD AFTER ANY FIRST-STEP DEAL?

The six want strict size limits and rigorous monitoring controls on Iran's nuclear program. Tehran wants an end to all sanctions, continued enriching and a final agreement that recognizes its right to enrich.

___

Associated Press writer Greg Keller contributed from Paris.


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